A proper and regular cooling tower maintenance program can guarantee efficiency, reliability, and longevity. It can also help prevent costly repairs and replacements as well as untimely downtime. Properly maintained cooling towers also prevent the growth of disease-causing bacteria and microorganisms like Legionella bacteria which causes Legionnaires disease.
Often used in manufacturing facilities like petroleum refineries and power plants, a cooling tower is a crucial device in any industrial building. It operates as part of a process cooling system or of an HVAC of a building. The application of a cooling tower includes getting rid of excess heat from the engine of the different processing equipment and machinery used in the manufacturing facilities and maintaining optimal engine operating temperature.
Just like any other equipment used in manufacturing industries, cooling towers also need to be regularly and properly maintained to ensure efficiency. Unfortunately, many facility managers undermine the importance of cooling tower maintenance. And if cleaning and maintenance works are done, they are often improperly performed. Lack or improper maintenance can significantly affect the reliability, efficiency, and lifespan of the equipment.
Oftentimes, facility managers, and even some cooling tower suppliers don’t schedule maintenance and inspection works until a major problem comes in like necessary repairs or replacement of vital parts. A proper and regular preventative maintenance program does not only guarantee efficiency, reliability, and longevity, but it also helps prevent costly repairs and replacements as well as untimely downtime which may cause serious financial impacts on your business.
Health hazards of poorly maintained cooling towers
Poorly maintained cooling towers also cause health hazards to those within and around the manufacturing facility. Bacteria, insects, pollen, dust, debris, and other particles from the air can accumulate and stay in different parts of equipment. Left uncleaned, these accumulated substances inside the cooling tower system can build an ideal environment for bacterial growth and becomes a breeding ground. This can lead to the development of slime, biofilms, or microorganisms which can possibly infest the entire system. This infestation cannot only cause reduced heat transfer efficiency and clogged piping but can also lead to the development of Legionnaires disease-causing bacteria.
As the cooling tower system cools down the warm water, the vapor is released into the air. This moist air can carry the Legionella bacteria and expel them into the air. The expelled Legionella bacteria can reach people at street level. Once inhaled, this type of bacterium will cause Legionnaires disease.
The first outbreak of Legionnaires disease was reported in early July 2018 in Upper Manhattan, New York City. The Legionella outbreak has caused 23 people to get sick. The outbreak also recorded one fatality.
Another outbreak of Legionella was reported in July 2019 at the Sheraton Atlanta, the sixth-largest hotel in Atlanta. During the outbreak, health officials confirmed that around 65 people got infected with Legionnaires disease.
Legionnaires disease is a serious disease. Approximately 5% of those people who get exposed to Legionella bacteria get sick. Whilst, 5% to 30% of the infected individuals die. While most people don’t easily get sick when exposed to Legionnaires disease, those who are immunocompromised or those with underlying respiratory issues are at a greater risk.
Importance of cooling tower water treatment
Regular and proper cooling tower water treatment program is critical to the prevention of Legionnaires disease. Cooling towers hold large quantities of fluid. This makes them an ideal environment for the production and growth of Legionella bacteria. To avoid the growth of Legionella bacteria, cooling tower systems need to receive regular and proper cleaning and maintenance, as well as effective cooling tower water treatment.
Water cooling towers manufacturers emphasize the importance of contracting with a certified water treatment company. With a regular, scheduled cooling tower water treatment program,
you can ensure that the water that flows through the system is in pristine condition. Water treatment programs such as using biocides can prevent the growth and production of Legionella bacteria within the cooling tower system. Treating cooling tower water regularly can also help improve the efficiency of the equipment and prevent untimely downtime, repair, and replacement.
Don’t miss our previous blog: Why Your Industrial Business Needs Industrial Water Cooling Towers
Other preventive maintenance
While cooling tower water treatment is the primary way to prevent and control the growth of dangerous Legionella bacteria, other preventive maintenance works still need to be considered. This includes but not limited to:
- Monthly routine inspection.
- Reducing the drift rate.
- Cleaning the basin of a cooling tower regularly.
- Regular cleaning of the fill.
- Disinfecting surfaces.
- Keeping the temperature of the sump water always below 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Removing stagnant water.
The Bottom Line
A cooling tower system can be a potential breeding ground for harmful microorganisms like the Legionella bacteria. To prevent and control the growth of bacteria and mold, an effective cooling water treatment program shall be carried out. Cleaning the basin and fill of the cooling tower system at least once a month can also help maintain healthy water within the cooling system.