What's New

September 22, 2016

On September 22, EH&S began monitoring chlorine and temperature levels of the water system in the School of Dentistry clinics located in the Health Sciences Building. EH&S responded to the request of the Dental School to perform water testing due to factors related to service provision to medically vulnerable patients. Chlorine and temperature are being tested at representative point-of-use locations to ensure they are within the expected range.

Hyper-chlorination of the water system in the Cascade Tower of UW Medical Center was completed the evening of September 20 to eliminate the Legionella bacteria.  The UW Medical Center is working with Public Health — Seattle & King County and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on water management efforts.

For more information, please visit the UW Medical Center website.

September 20, 2016

Please remember that drinking from water fountains will not put you at risk for developing Legionnaires’ disease. Inhalation of aerosolized water  that contains Legionella — through  mists or droplets — poses a health concern for those who are already ill or have a compromised immune system.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Legionella must be inhaled to pose a health risk.

For more information about the UW Medical Center, please visit UW Medical Center’s website.

September 19, 2016

Campus Engineering confirmed that the plumbing system serving the UW Medical Center’s Cascade Tower does not cross-connect to other plumbing systems in the UW Medical Center or Health Sciences Building.  The UW receives its water from the City of Seattle, and after arrival in the Cascade Tower, backflow prevention and other devices prevent cross-connection to water systems in other areas.

On Monday, September 19, the UW Medical Center will begin treating water in the Cascade Tower with a chlorine solution that is circulated through the water system and then flushed. UWMC will continue testing of all water systems until they are negative for Legionella.

For more information and updates from the UW Medical Center, please visit the UW Health Sciences NewsBeat Website.

September 16, 2016

Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaire’s disease, was detected in several water sources at University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC) recently. Water sampling by UWMC has concluded that the bacteria was found in the Cascade Tower of the hospital.

Legionella is a bacteria that exists naturally in freshwater environments. It grows best in warm and stagnant water, and it can spread in man-made water systems such as hot tubs, hot water tanks, plumbing systems and air conditioning units for large buildings. Legionella is contracted by breathing in a mist or inhaling aerosolized water particles. Less commonly, it’s contracted by aspirating water – when the water goes down the windpipe to your lungs. It does not normally spread from person to person.

Water systems that are sufficiently chlorinated are not at risk for carrying Legionella, according to the Centers for Disease Control. All water supplied to UW by Seattle Public Utilities is treated with chlorine and routinely tested for chlorine levels. Recent tests of water samples have been determined to have a chlorine level sufficiently high to eliminate the risk of Legionella existing in the water system on UW Seattle campus.

While there is no evidence that Legionella exists outside of the UWMC’s Cascade Tower, EH&S is partnering with Campus Engineering to evaluate water systems outside the UWMC Cascade Tower.

Although Legionnaire’s Disease is quite rare (about 5,000 cases are reported annually), people who are at higher risk are over 50 years old, have a weak or suppressed immune system, past or present smokers, and those with chronic lung disease. Most people don’t get sick after exposure.

As Legionella can grow in warm stagnant water, it is recommended that you let water run through faucets or showers for a minute before use if they have been sitting idle for more than one week.


Common Questions about Legionella

What is Legionella?

It’s a bacteria that exists naturally in freshwater environments. But it grows best in warm and stagnant water, and can spread in man-made water systems such as hot tubs, hot water tanks, plumbing systems and cooling towers which are a component of air conditioning systems for large buildings.

How does it spread?

Legionella is spread by breathing in a mist or inhaling aerosolized water particles. Less commonly, it’s spread by aspirating water – when the water goes down the windpipe into your lungs. It does not normally spread from person to person.

How does UW prevent the spread of Legionella?

Water systems that are sufficiently chlorinated are not at risk for carrying Legionella, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All water supplied to UW by Seattle Public Utilities is treated with chlorine and routinely tested for chlorine levels that meet federal and state drinking water regulations. Recent tests of water samples by Seattle Public Utilities were determined to have a chlorine level sufficiently high to eliminate the risk of Legionella existing in the water system on UW Seattle campus.

Who’s susceptible?

You’re at higher risk if you’re older than 50, have a weak or suppressed immune system, are a past or current smoker, or have a chronic lung disease. Most people don’t get sick after exposure.

What are symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease?

Coughing, shortness of breath, fever, headache and muscle aches. It’s a serious type of pneumonia.

How common is it?

It’s quite rare, with about 5,000 cases reported annually in the United States, usually in hospital settings among patients with compromised immune systems.

Can I drink the water at the UW?

Currently, we have no evidence that the drinking water system at UW presents a health risk and all data from Seattle Public Utilities indicates that UW water meets drinking water regulations.

The UW Environmental Health & Safety Department is partnering with UW Campus Engineering, public health experts at the Washington State Department of Health Drinking Water Division, and Seattle Public Utilities engineers to evaluate water systems outside the UW Medical Center Cascade Tower.

What can I do?

Because Legionella can grow in warm stagnant water, EH&S recommends that you let water run through faucets or showers for a minute before use if they have been sitting idle for more than one week.

Here are some additional resources:

CDC page on Legionella

UWMC press conference

UW Medical Center Legionella Update

For more information, contact Mark Murray, Assistant Director, Building & Fire Safety, 206.543.7262


Lab Safety Initiative

Aug 8, 2016

The University of Washington is launching a two-year Laboratory Safety Initiative as part of a national movement to build a better culture of safety in university research laboratories. This initiative is intended to lead to the development and implementation of services, approaches, best practices, and tools that significantly improve laboratory chemical safety throughout the University. For more information on this initiative, the people working on it, safety tools and resources available through EH&S and other sources, inspection and auditing groups that visit research spaces, and reports of safety-related incidents at UW, as well as around the nation, visit the new Lab Safety Initiative website.

Job Opening

May 27, 2016

Environmental Health and Safety has an outstanding opportunity for a Occupational Health and Safety Specialist. Under general direction, the Program Operations Specialist will provide occupational health and safety and industrial hygiene program support to the non-research departments of the University (such as Facilities Services). This position will develop programs, procedures, and training in the areas of hearing protection, lockout-tagout, indoor air quality, shop safety and similar areas. This position will also monitor changes in regulations, assist departments in regulatory compliance, and conduct workplace safety inspections.

For more information and to apply for this position go to UWHires, Requisition 133094.

Current Editions of EH&S News

The July 2016 edition of EH&S News is now available.

  • 3-D Printer Safety
  • Nitric Acid Incident on Campus
  • Gear Up for Summer Safety
  • UW Fire Drill Procedures Change
  • Animal Researchers: Meet HoverBoard
  • New Policy on Asbestos/Regulated Building Materials
  • Preparing for a Hazardous Waste Inspection
  • New Autoclave Safety Guidelines
April 2016
  • Is the Lithium Battery in Your Device Safe?
  • Your Health and Safety Committee
  • Preparing Your Laboratory for an Earthquake
  • Outdoor UW Events May Require a Permit
  • Do You Need a Temporary Food Permit for Your UW Event?
  • Staff Spotlight: John Kelly
  • What's New: New State Regulation of Radioactive Material, OSHA Announces Final Rule Lowering Silica Exposure Limit
February 2016
  • UW Safety, Sustainability, and Preparedness Expo
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in Laboratories
  • 2015 UW Work-Related Injury and Illness Summaries Now Online
  • Staff Spotlight: Rebecca Stenberg
  • What's New: New Chemical Waste Management Video, New EH&S Training Record Lookup

See more editions at ehs.washington.edu/news.

Print your own Safety Training Certificates

So you want a safety training certificate for the Asbestos class you took last week, well now you can print a copy for yourself! Simply follow the link to My EH&S Training, and you can print certificates for classes (with about one week delay) you have taken through Environmental Health and Safety. Enjoy!

UW Digital Security Certificate

A number of commonly used applications on the EH&S website, including but not limited to OARS Version 2 and the online General Asbestos Awareness Training, generate errors if your computer does not have the UW security certificate loaded. If, when attempting to access one of these applications, you get an error message indicating that the security certificate is invalid or unknown, then go to www.washington.edu/itconnect/security/securing-computer/install/ for instructions on how to update your computer's security certificate. This same certificate will also work for many other University applications.