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Title: Present-day monitoring underestimates the risk of exposure to pathogenic bacteria from cold water storage tanks
Authors: Peter, A
Routledge, EJ
Issue Date: 12-Apr-2018
Publisher: PLOS
Citation: Peter, A and Routledge, E.J. (2018) 'Present-day monitoring underestimates the risk of exposure to pathogenic bacteria from cold water storage tanks', PLoS ONE,13 (4), e0195635, pp. 1 - 21. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0195635
Abstract: Water-borne bacteria, found in cold water storage tanks, are causative agents for various human infections and diseases including Legionnaires’ disease. Consequently, regular microbiological monitoring of tank water is undertaken as part of the regulatory framework used to control pathogenic bacteria. A key assumption is that a small volume of water taken from under the ball valve (where there is easy access to the stored water) will be representative of the entire tank. To test the reliability of this measure, domestic water samples taken from different locations of selected tanks in London properties between November 2015 and July 2016 were analysed for TVCs, Pseudomonas and Legionella at an accredited laboratory, according to regulatory requirements. Out of ~6000 tanks surveyed, only 15 were selected based on the ability to take a water sample from the normal sampling hatch (located above the ball valve) and from the far end of the tank (usually requiring disassembly of the tank lid with risk of structural damage), and permission being granted by the site manager to undertake the additional investigation and sampling. Despite seasonal differences in water temperature, we found 100% compliance at the ball valve end. In contrast, 40% of the tanks exceeded the regulatory threshold for temperature at the far end of the tank in the summer months. Consequently, 20% of the tanks surveyed failed to trigger appropriate regulatory action based on microbiological analyses of the water sample taken under the ball valve compared to the far end sample using present-day standards. These data show that typical water samples collected for routine monitoring may often underestimate the microbiological status of the water entering the building, thereby increasing the risk of exposure to water bourne pathogens with potential public health implications. We propose that water storage tanks should be redesigned to allow access to the far end of tanks for routine monitoring purposes, and that water samples used to ascertain the regulatory compliance of stored water in tanks should be taken at the point at which water is abstracted for use in the building.
Description: Data Availability: All relevant data are within the paper and its Supporting Information files.
Other Identifiers: ORCID iDs: Aji Peter; Edwin J. Routledge
Appears in Collections:Dept of Life Sciences Research Papers
Institute of Environment, Health and Societies

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