Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is living in what seems like an episode straight out of the dystopian series Black Mirror: streets are bare, supermarkets are emptied, people are told to stay at home and practice social distancing, etc. The new reality has affected the way people live in even the smallest of ways – even their residential and commercial plumbing is not safe.
Apparently, quarantine has had people frequently calling companies to repair plumbing systems and replace old bathrooms. Currently, this is the new normal for today’s plumbing.
Water is Getting Old
Since millions of people are ordered to stay at home, water sits in the pipes of empty schools, office buildings and other commercial establishments. As a result, the water gets old and becomes potentially dangerous for use.
When water is not flowing, chemicals and organisms build up in the plumbing. It can happen in schools, offices, shopping malls, gyms and other empty facilities. These chemicals and organisms can become a bit dodgy in quality when the water sits in the pipes for a few days. But when the water sits for weeks and months, it can make people sick.
Without proper maintenance, water tanks, filters, softeners and heaters can incubate harmful organisms, such as the bacteria that cause Legionnaire’s disease. With certain pipe materials, old water can also accumulate harmful levels of copper and lead, which can trigger diarrhea and nausea, cardiovascular effects and learning disabilities.
Drinking old water can make you sick, but infections can also result from the inhalation of harmful organisms via water splashes. These splashes can become aerosol, which can happen in pools, showers, and hot tubs, as well as when you wash your hands or flush the toilet. Some of these organisms can cause pneumonia, especially for people with weaker immune systems.
How to Address the Issue
To improve the plumbing system, fresh water must flow in any establishment’s plumbing system. Fortunately, most water providers clean waters with chemical disinfectant but this remedy is short-term only. Schools, which have long period of low water usage during the summer, keep the water fresh to reduce lead levels while hospitals (with their vulnerable population) must always have a building water safety plan to ensure the water is always fresh.
Also, health agencies in the United States have released recommendations regarding COVID-19 lockdowns and water in establishments. There are debates on the best way to keep water fresh but the core message remains the same: water should not sit in empty buildings.
If an establishment’s water is unused, building managers can flush the water weekly to replace the old water. To perform flushing, managers must wear safety equipment such as masks and gloves. Also, remove sediments to keep them from accumulating along pipe walls.
Plumbing Problems at Home
The COVID-19 pandemic caused hoarding in personal essentials like paper products. Carts full of toilet paper, however, lead one to wonder just how much damage these products can do to toilets during the quarantine period (despite the growing popularity of bidets). The bad habit of throwing baby wipes and paper towels in the toilet compromises the plumbing situation of most homes.
Paper towels and baby wipes, even the biodegradable ones, are the top culprits behind backed-up plumbing systems. Paper towels, unlike toilet paper, do not break down as soon as they hit the water. Instead, they absorb spills and have the tendency to clump up.
Other common plumbing problems associated with the prolonged quarantine period include:
- Dripping faucets. This costly concern can be a result of an overused washer, which is easy to replace. Other times, the causes can be caused by poorly installed faucets or corrosion.
- Weak water pressure. This is often a sign of a bigger water problem like sewer or drain clogs, hidden water leaks, pipe corrosion, or backed-up sewer lines.
- Slow or clogged drains. Drainage problem cause major plumbing disasters and health hazards if left unaddressed. Typically, clogs occur due to hair, soap, and other build-up over time. Multiple clogs or slow drains can indicate more serious sewer line problems.
- Water heater problems. More people are using their heaters since everyone’s at home. As a result, water heaters break down easily. Usually, when water heaters break down, they are due to broken or loose electrical connections, heating element issues, improper water heater installation, or corrosion buildup in the system.
As more people stay at home and away from their offices and schools, water problems are expected for residential and commercial establishments. Fortunately, a few remedies can help homeowners and business owners weather their water problems during COVID-19.