Salehi Conducts Water Quality Research in Response to COVID-19 Building Closures

April 14, 2020 - Dr. Maryam Salehi, assistant professor of civil engineering in the Herff College of Engineering at the University of Memphis, is a collaborator in a multi-university study concerning water safety in buildings after they were forced to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Collaborating with Salehi in this effort are experts from leading plumbing safety scientists and engineers from Virginia Tech, Legionella Risk Management Inc., Arizona State University, Purdue University, University of Iowa, Northeastern University and Polytechnique Montréal in Canada.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak prompted the indefinite closure of many restaurants, gyms, schools and other buildings to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The water left sitting for long periods of time in large building plumbing could contain excessive amounts of heavy metals and pathogens concentrated in pipes. As part of the research to address these concerns, a synthesis of peer-reviewed, government, industry and nonprofit literature relevant to the implications of water stagnation in plumbing systems and decontamination practices on water quality and health was conducted. 

“The goal of this study is to help public health officials, building owners and water utilities better understand building water quality due to low or no occupancy in buildings,” says Salehi. “This primer of large building plumbing preventative and remedial strategies was created to inform ongoing efforts to develop recommissioning guidance.”

Preventative practices to help avoid the need for recommissioning and specific actions, challenges and limitations associated with recommissioning were identified and characterized in the publication. Considerations for worker and occupant safety were also indicated. The responsibility for building water safety was identified to be shared between the building owner, drinking water provider, and local and state public health authorities.

The preprint of “Considerations for Large Building Water Quality After Extended Stagnation” is available for free download here.