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Posted on: May 8, 2020

Water Pipe Flushing Guidelines for Buildings Reopening for Business


As businesses around the area begin to reopen, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Utilities urges owners and tenants of temporarily or partially closed buildings to ensure water is safe and odor free before resumption of normal water use.

Water may become stagnant in unused pipes while businesses are closed. Unused floors or sections of buildings may also be impacted. Conditions may develop that increase the risk of waterborne bacteria in building piping. Disinfectant already present in the water, such as chlorine, will have likely dissipated or become ineffective.

Before reopening a business, it is important to take steps like flushing the building’s water system, cleaning decorative water fixtures and ensuring water heaters are maintained to guarantee the building’s water system is safe.

Flushing FAQs

Q: Why should I flush my building’s water system?
A: Flushing is a process to ensure your water is the highest quality possible after water in pipes may have become stagnant from non-use. Flushing removes low quality water and replaces it with high quality water from the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Utilities system.

Q: When should I begin to flush the building’s water system?
A: As soon as possible! Starting now means less deterioration of water quality in the building and a quicker recovery and return to normal conditions.

Q: Should I also check the building’s mechanical equipment?
A: Yes. You should inspect all mechanical equipment such as cooling towers, boilers, pumps and backflow preventers to determine if there are any issues with their operation. You should also flush ice makers, replace filters in water filtration systems and perform maintenance on any system that uses water and has been inactive during the shutdown.

Q: How do I flush a larger building?
A: A single flush won’t re-establish good water quality within a larger building. An initial flush will remove low quality water and contaminants, but follow-up flushes will be required to bring the building back to pre-COVID water quality. Consider systematic flushing from the source and work toward the extremities (or dead ends) of the building.

These FAQs were developed using guidelines for flushing from the Environmental Science, Policy and Research Institute (ESPRI) and AH Environmental Consultants. Visit The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality websites for additional important guidance on preparing building water systems for regular use.

ESPRI Building Flushing Guidance
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