Stricter controls in the drinking water ordinance

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Drinking water ordinance obliges landlords to check legionella

The first ordinance to amend the drinking water ordinance came into force across Germany today, which not only prescribes a new limit value for the uranium content of the drinking water, but also stricter controls on Legionella in large drinking water heating systems. This also applies to apartment buildings in which the water must now be checked for Legionella once a year. The tenant bears the costs for this, since the investigation of the operating costs can be fully allocated.

The drinking water systems that will have to be reported to the health department in the future and checked for legionella bacteria include not only installations in companies, schools, kindergartens, old people's homes and other community facilities, but also rental apartments. Large plants for drinking water heating with a capacity of at least 400 liters or with a pipeline volume of at least three liters between the outlet of the drinking water heater and the point of use must be reported in writing. The regulation applies both to new installations and to existing systems.

Limit values ​​for uranium content in drinking water As the Saxon Minister of State for Social Affairs and Consumer Protection Christine Clauß (CDU) explained in a current communication on the new regulation, the regulation that came into force on November 1st, 2011 serves “in addition to clarifications and taking new scientific knowledge into account Adaptation to European law requirements and the closing of regulatory gaps. ”The Minister of State added that“ ensuring comprehensive consumer protection ”remains“ the most important goal of the Drinking Water Ordinance. ”In addition to the newly introduced limit value for uranium of a maximum of 0.01 milligrams per liter, this corresponds to the Already in 2004, the Federal Environment Agency published the guideline value and takes the chemical toxicity of uranium into account (radioactivity is only decisive in the case of larger quantities), the new regulation expressly has its sights on the bacterial load of Legionella in drinking water. The Saxon Minister of State emphasized that this urgently had to be minimized in order to rule out possible health risks for the population.

Reduction of legionella in drinking water Therefore, the drinking water ordinance not only introduced a technical measure for legionella, but also laid down the obligation to report and monitor large plants. The technical measure for Legionella was set at 100 CFU (colony-forming units) per 100 milliliters of drinking water in order to rule out possible infection risks from the bacterial load. Even small concentrations of Legionella can get into the lungs, for example, when using the shower as aerosols (tiny droplets in the air) and trigger Legionellosis (also Legionnaires' disease), which is extremely harmful to health. The bacteria in the water are generally contained in the drinking water, but only through an uncontrolled multiplication do they reach concentrations that can cause illness in humans. Pipe systems in which the water has a temperature of 25 to 45 degrees Celsius and low flow velocities are regarded as optimal propagation conditions. Water temperatures above 60 degrees Celsius, on the other hand, lead to the death of the bacteria. However, for reasons of energy saving, the water in the facilities is often no longer heated enough today so that there is a risk of a massive increase in Legionella, according to the justification for the enactment of the current regulation. The amendment to the Drinking Water Ordinance therefore stipulates an obligation to examine legionella for companies and other owners of large, publicly or commercially operated systems for heating drinking water, whereby the rental of apartments can also be referred to as commercial use, explained the Saxon Minister of State.

Severe pneumonia caused by Legionella infection According to the experts, not only the low water temperatures in the drinking water systems but also inadequately maintained pipeline systems favor deposits and the formation of so-called biofilms in which Legionella can reproduce optimally. Under certain circumstances, this can pose a considerable threat to the health of the population, because the consequences of the so-called Legionnaires' disease should not be underestimated. In contrast to many other bacteria in drinking water, which are usually absorbed via the digestive tract and cause symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, the greatest risk for Legionella bacteria is absorption via the lungs. The legionella inhaled in the form of aerosols can cause severe pneumonia with potentially life-threatening consequences for those affected. With the amendment to the Drinking Water Ordinance now in force, the authorities hope to minimize the risk of the bacteria spreading through drinking water systems in the future.

Additional costs for tenants due to drinking water samples For tenants, the annual inspection of drinking water for Legionella causes significant additional costs. According to the assessment of housing construction companies in the case of affected multi-family houses, there is an expenditure of at least 25 euros per apartment per year due to the sampling and laboratory tests. The drinking water samples must be taken at three points in the large systems: at the inlet, at the return and at the most distant point of warming. The expected cost of the drinking water test is around 200 euros even for the simplest tests, but for more complex "systems with multiple risers, this can quickly turn into 400 euros," explained the board member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Housing Association (BBU), Maren Kern the "Berliner Morgenpost". For example, the BBU assumes that "the new ordinance will entail considerable bureaucratic effort" and will cost "the tenants a lot of money". (fp)

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