HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — Those in charge of utility and health departments in Hampton Roads are warning businesses to flush their plumbing if they have been closed for a while due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With Gov. Ralph Northam expected to allow some businesses to reopen starting Friday — with some stipulations — businesses need to flush their pipes to ensure their water is safe to drink.

“Drinking water systems are designed to support the continuous delivery of safe water. When buildings go unused, so too does the water sitting in pipes,” said Dan Horne, field director at the Virginia Department of Health, Office of Drinking Water. “To make sure drinking water systems are at safe levels of disinfection before employees return to work, it’s important that all of the water in the building be flushed out and replaced with fresh water from the water utility system.”

When water systems are unused, the disinfectant in the water will dissipate over time. If chlorinated water isn’t moving through the pipes for a while, microorganisms can also grow in the pipes, fixtures and tanks. Stagnant water can also allow the protective scale inside the pipe walls to dissolve into the water.

So, who should flush their pipes?

The Hampton Roads Planning District Commission says flushing plumbing systems is recommended for schools, daycares, lodging, offices, places of worship, event venues, retail, libraries, museums, restaurants, gyms, healthcare and other facilities which have remained closed during the COVID-19 shutdown.

“Residential customers and businesses that have continued operations during the pandemic with regular water usage can be assured their water remains safe. For businesses and commercial operations that will be returning to service in the future, this is a reminder to follow the recommended water quality protocols before reopening,” Horne said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also published guidance on how to flush building water systems after the COVID-19 shutdown.

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