Keeping our buildings’ water supplies clean and safe

Keeping our buildings’ water supplies clean and safe

ESI provides consultancy, risk assessment, monitoring, water sampling and water treatment services to an ever-expanding list of clients nationwide

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5th December, 2021

Water is a reservoir and a mode of distribution for a wide range of bacteria. Storage of hot and cold water is a hazard which increases the potential risk of bacterial growth within a building’s water systems, acccording to Colum Ó Bric, managing director at Environmental Services Ireland (ESI).

The proliferation of bacteria in water systems can have significant cost implications in terms of repair, remediation and monitoring of systems – to say nothing of the potential health risks. It is essential that each element of these systems is carefully designed, engineered and then managed throughout the lifespan of the system.

Environmental Services Ireland (ESI) was established in July 2011 by the current company directors Tony Joyce and Colum Ó Bric. Joyce and Ó Bric had worked together for many years before deciding to launch a business that would allow them to bring their ideas and client-centred approach to the industry.

“We started the company with two employees: Colum and myself,” Joyce said. “We’ve grown to a staff of 30 and see further growth in the coming years. We have built a team around us from management and administration to our technicians out in the field who deliver our services to clients. The team is the key to our success, and we thank them for their high-quality work and dedication; which has been particularly apparent in the difficult environment of the past 18 months. We have also forged strong partnerships with other Irish companies, who work with us and vice versa.”

Tony Joyce and Colum Ó Bric with the team, at Environmental Services Ireland. Picture: Fergal Phillips

ESI specialises in the management, monitoring and testing of water systems within buildings. While often hidden behind plantroom doors, in the attic or on the roof, water systems are critical for building operations.

“The complexity of building water systems has changed significantly over recent decades with modern design and installation standards, new materials and installation methods, and an ever-increasing range of equipment installed as part of building construction,” James Sawdon, ESI operations director, said.

ESI provides services at the point of construction and installation of water systems to ensure systems are chemically cleaned and treated. Chemical cleaning and treatment is essential for heating and cooling systems to ensure these systems operate efficiently, with minimal corrosion and achieve their desired installation lifespan.

Chemical treatment and disinfection is also utilised prior to building use and following periods of closure to ensure systems are safe for use by staff, visitors and all end users.

This has been in sharp focus in the recent months with buildings closed and reopening over the period of Covid-19 restrictions, as water systems become stagnant during lay down periods and require specialist disinfection and testing prior to re-use.

ESI has forged strong industry links with chemical specialists to ensure it provides the most modern and effective chemical treatments available to its clients for all systems.

Once installation of a building water system is complete, the responsibility for the management of these systems rests with building and facility managers. “We provide services to ensure these managers meet their responsibilities as outlined in Health & Safety legislation and in the relevant guidelines that are published by regulatory and advisory bodies such as BSRIA for chemical treatment; or the HPSC for the control of bacteria within water systems,” Ó Bric said.

“The water entering our buildings is generally treated mains water, which achieves the standards outlined in European Union Drinking Water Regulations. This does not mean that the water is sterile, merely that the bacteria and microorganisms that would be directly harmful to users, such as Escherichia coli and Cryptosporidium are removed.”

Chemical levels in the water are also variable across the country and different treatments are required to reduce common issues such as hardness or ‘lime’ so common to many buildings. ESI provides equipment and testing of water supplies for bacteria and chemical contaminants ranging from filtration and water softening to ultraviolet and chemical treatment.

Potable mains water, suitable for drinking is a resource we are very fortunate to have, Ó Bric said. This water still has a level of bacteria and microorganisms present, but these are in small numbers and are generally not harmful.

“This situation can change when this water, with low bacterial numbers, is taken into a building and the levels of pathogenic bacteria (ie those that may will cause illness), are allowed to grow as a result of ideal conditions for growth being present within the building water systems.”

Exposure of the building users through ingestion or inhalation completes the chain of infection and an outbreak of illness can occur. “A significant focus of the ESI operation is the management of these conditions within water systems to ensure the risks are minimised and safe water systems are maintained,” Ó Bric said. “We provide consultancy, risk assessment, monitoring, water sampling and water treatment services to an ever-expanding list of clients nationwide.”

“Legionnaires’ disease causes significant morbidity and mortality every year worldwide. In 2019, there were over 11,000 deaths in the EU and 21 in Ireland from Legionnaires’ disease. The cause is a failure in management and treatment of water systems. Legionella bacteria growing in building water systems and exposure to these systems is a significant risk where systems are not adequately maintained and ESI provide competence, compliance and modern technology to clients to achieve safe water systems” said Ó Bric.

Copper silver ionisation systems

ESI has always sought out alternative solutions and new innovations. The challenge of bacterial control in building water systems has traditionally been dealt with by chemical treatments and temperature management.

“We researched a number of technologies and in 2014 made a partnership with a company in the Netherlands called Ateca, becoming the Irish distributor for the ICA Copper Silver Ionisation Unit,” Joyce said.

“This system is a chemical-free treatment system which has a proven and demonstrated effectiveness against the pathogenic legionella bacteria found within building water systems.”

The success of the copper silver ionisation system is further enhanced by the move away from chemical treatment systems across Europe and the appeal of this chemical free system. We’ve seen both public and private adoption of this technology.”

Ray Philpott is project and facilities manager at the Rotunda Hospital. He said: “Environmental Services Ireland have had their system installed in the hospital for a number of years. It is safe to say that from the day it was installed we have not looked back. The peace of mind knowing that a system has controlled an issue of legionella in our building ensuring the safety of our patients is any hospital’s top priority.”

“The team are at hand to attend and answer any queries we may have in a speedy fashion and again gives us the reassurance we need that we are protecting our patients’ welfare.”

Lynskey Engineering is a long established mechanical services contractor. Sean McElligott, managing director, said the company works with a carefully selected supply chain founded on quality service, efficient operation and strong relationships.

“ESI has been helping us to deliver construction projects and to maintain existing facilities for over ten years. Their experienced staff, quality of reporting and positive approach ensures that we continue to work together on a diverse range of projects such as commercial office blocks, data centres, hospitals, hotels and industrial facilities.”

ESI is now the market leader in the supply and installation of copper silver ionisation systems in Ireland and through partnerships within the industry and the proven success of the systems, this technology is now being incorporated routinely by many design engineers in new building planning.

ESI operates across Ireland with clients in all sectors including industrial, commercial, healthcare, hospitality and leisure. Services are delivered directly to clients, but also through intermediaries such as facility management, mechanical engineering and property management companies.

The breadth of the ESI client base is a result of the competence and hard work of staff and the focus on quality within the organisation. The company has been accredited to the Legionella Control Association (LCA) in Britain since its inception and also has achieved ISO 45001, ISO 14001 and ISO 9001 standards.

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