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German Drinking Water Directive: What plant operators must consider to keep their water safe

The drinking water in central hot water systems has to be examined for legionella at certain intervals - in the case of public activity annually, for purely commercial use of the building, eg in the case of rented accommodation, at least once every three years. If the drinking water installation is contaminated, on-site inspection, hazard analysis and, if necessary, remedial work will follow.

On 11 May 2011, the Federal Ministry of Health announced the amended Drinking Water Ordinance. Large-scale plants for drinking water heating, including in residential buildings, are to be examined annually at representative sampling points on legionellae.

The obligation to test applies to approx. 2 million buildings with centralized drinking water heating nationwide, of which - as is estimated - alone 1 million properties are owned by the professional real estate and housing industry. The task is huge, the deadlines ambitiously short. The obligation to inspect is subject only to large-scale plants for drinking water heating, which are used to vaporized the drinking water. Hot water installations with more than 400 liters of storage volume and / or hot water pipes with more than 3 liters of capacity between the DHW cylinder and the collection point are considered as large installations. These are practically all central hot water supply systems in multi-family houses. Single and double family houses are exempted from the obligation, irrespective of the storage size.

The limit value (indicator value) for legionellae in drinking water is set to 100 milliliters of drinking water to a technical measure of 100 colony forming units (CbE). The experts from medicine and environmental hygiene are in agreement that this value has been set extremely low. In the absence of a sufficient data basis, it is currently not possible to make any conclusive statements about the extent of the limit values. For comparison, the limit for a shower ban is 10,000 CFU per 100 milliliters.

The limit value (indicator value) for legionellae in drinking water is set to 100 milliliters of drinking water to a technical measure of 100 colony forming units (CbE). The experts from medicine and environmental hygiene are in agreement that this value has been set extremely low. In the absence of a sufficient data basis, it is currently not possible to make any conclusive statements about the extent of the limit values. For comparison, the limit for a shower ban is 10,000 CFU per 100 milliliters.

The newly amended Drinking Water Ordinance, which was enacted on December 5, 2012, but came into force retroactively as of November 1, 2012, created substantial reductions for plant operators within the year. Thus, the duty to report drinking water plants subject to inspection was not reported to the health authorities. The examination intervals were also considerably extended. For the initial sampling, the prescribing authority grants the holders of water supply facilities a period up to 31 December 2013. This deadline has long since passed. Nevertheless, there are still numerous plants that have not been sampled so far.

The affected plant operators are thus exposed to the risk that the health authorities will sanction the failure to meet the deadline in the form of fines. The revised amendment to the Drinking Water Ordinance also made unacceptable tightening: the hazard analysis is compulsory; even if the prescribed limit values (measures) are slightly exceeded. A new Section 16 (7) has been created with a whole series of new obligations for plant operators when legionellae are identified above the value of the measure. In addition, penalties may be imposed if the operator does not report the contamination, or does not report it in time.