Water utility urges caution for schools, businesses welcoming people back into buildings

Published: Feb. 5, 2021 at 3:05 PM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The Green Bay Water Utility issues a note of caution for schools or businesses who’ve gone awhile without many people in their buildings.

It’s launching a proactive campaign to make sure people flush their pipes so they don’t get sick from the water.

When you turn on a faucet, the last thing you’re probably thinking about is what’s in that water, but Green Bay Water Utility General Manager Nancy Quirk wants everyone to think about it.

“Any time it stagnates for a long time, you have to you have to make sure that you’re getting clean water through there,” explains Quirk.

The concern first came up last fall, when the utility heard about the discovery of legionella in schools in Ohio and Pennsylvania, where shutdowns left buildings and their water systems unused for a long period of time.

That legionella bacteria is common in places like lakes and streams, but the CDC deems it a health concern when it grows and spreads in human-made building water systems.

It then spreads in droplets small enough to breath in and can cause Legionnaires’ disease, a serious lung infection.

“We also contacted the school district almost immediately, within a month after things got shut down, and said, you need to keep that water moving, please. They were very proactive. What I’ve been told is that they’re flushing out all the schools every two weeks,” says Quirk.

She’s encouraging other schools to make sure they, too, flush their pipes before students and staff come back into the buildings.

The same goes for businesses and office buildings that have not been used at the same capacity as a year ago.

“When we heard that the businesses were going to start ramping up, we sent letters to all of them and said, please run water through your facilities, your ice makers, everything,” she says.

The utility is doing its part, too, continuing to add a small amount of chlorine to the water to kill that bacteria, but that alone isn’t quite enough.

“We understand that when we we treat our water, we know it’s safe when it leaves a plant, but we have to keep it safe throughout the distribution system, too,” adds Quirk.

The Green Bay Water Utility has recommendations on how to flush pipes, as well as a list of specific places and appliances that need special attention.

It produced this video to show you how to flush the pipes in your home.

The utility also provided instructions for flushing. You can find those here.

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