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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — Business owners who will be able to reopen under Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’ relaxation of the Safer at Home order should check out their water systems first and take measures to ensure fresh, safe water, according to the city of La Crosse Utilities Department.
Businesses that have been closed since the original order was issued March 24 may have had little to no water flowing through their pipes, according to an advisory memo from Tina Erickson, accounting and customer support supervisor.
Stagnant water can lead to low or undetectable levels of disinfectants such as chlorine, Erickson’s message says. Dormant water also can result in conditions that increase the risk of Legionella and other biofilm-associated bacteria.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidelines to flush plumbing systems before turning them on again, Erickson said.
Those guidelines outline the following steps:

  • Start at the lowest level in the building. Faucets may have aerators and screens on the ends. Using a pliers or, perhaps, a rubber jar opening, remove the aerators and screens.
  • Drain and clean water storage facilities and hot water heaters.
  • Completely open all faucets on the lowest level.
  • Leave those faucets running and move to the next floor. Repeat the process of removing the screens and aerators, then open all faucets.
  • Repeat the process for all additional floors.
  • After reaching the top floor and following the same procedure, let all faucets run for 10 more minutes.
  • After 10 minutes, turn off all faucets, starting at the top floor.
  • Rinse and reattach the screens and aerators that were removed.

Additional information and other guidelines, including checking for and mitigating mold, can be found on the CDC’s website.
This also is a good time to check your water heater. When water is stagnant, hot water temperatures can decrease to the Legionella growth range (77-108 degrees F). Ensure that the water heater is working properly and the temperature is set to a minimum of 120 degrees. Be careful, in case the water has reached the scalding level of hotter than 130 degrees.
If you have questions, contact the utilities office at 608-789-7536.