Guidance - Prolonged Closures

EPWater employees work around the clock to treat and monitor water to ensure it is safe, reliable and clean. However, businesses and property managers that have unoccupied buildings or prolonged closures may experience on-site water quality issues upon reopening.


Stagnant water, leaks, increased humidity, and reduced maintenance and operation of a building may increase the risk of discolored or cloudy water. The lack of use also carries the potential risk for health issues.


To protect public health, EPWater is providing the following guidance to help building owners and managers to prepare for the reopening of facilities.

Ventilate the Building

The temporary shutdown or reduced use of a building could create hazards, such as mold or the release of wastewater fumes, for returning occupants. It is important to ventilate the building before you begin flushing procedures or inspection to reduce your exposure to mold and harmful gasses.  

Remove/Bypass POE or POU Systems

Unused water treatment systems such as point-of-entry (POE) and point-of-use (POU) may present additional problems during flushing. Remove and bypass these devices, prior to flushing.

Flush and Refill P-Traps

If you perceive a strong wastewater smell similar to rotten eggs and ammonia, it is possible that your P-traps—the U-shaped pipes in toilets and underneath sinks—have dried out. A functioning P-trap holds a small amount of water to prevent wastewater gases from rising up into the building. Make sure to add water to all drains, especially floor drains, to prevent further gas intrusion.

Flush Before Drinking Tap Water

Do not drink tap water until all water lines (cold and hot) have been flushed.

Flush Cold-Water Lines (First)

Open all faucets simultaneously to flush cold-water lines first. This will help clear out low quality water that accumulated during inactive periods. Remember to flush water-using appliances as well, such as ice machines and dishwashers.

Flush Hot-Water Lines (Second)

Ensure water heaters are properly maintained and proper anti-scald devices are present. Set water heater to the highest temperature setting, and let it warm up for 30 minutes. Proceed with opening all faucets simultaneously and flush hot-water lines until water is clear. If the hot water is discolored or has a rotten egg smell, the hot water tank needs to be thoroughly flushed. After flushing, if the water quality doesn’t return to normal, the water heater may need to be drained and refilled, possibly with the assistance of a plumber. Note: As per CDC guidelines, hot water temperatures should be set to at least 140 degrees F, and a proper anti-scald device must be present during ordinary use.

Flush All Outlets

Run enough water through all outlets (e.g., hose bibs, faucets, showerheads, toilets, etc.) for 10 to 30 minutes.

Replace and Service POE and POU Systems

After flushing all lines, have your POE and POU devices, including refrigerator filters, serviced and replaced before use.

Contact a Plumber

For assistance with specific plumbing concerns.

Additional Precautions

Please see the following examples of additional hazards that may pose a threat to returning occupants.

Mold:  While El Paso’s climate is dry, the environment inside an inactive building can be humid due to leaks, condensation from roofs, or reduced use of AC systems. Please refer to these CDC guidelines for reducing mold exposure to returning occupants during and after a prolonged shutdown.

Legionella and Other Bacteria: EPWater performs water quality testing across our distribution system. Some tests ensure that water contains traces of chlorine intended to inhibit microbial growth. When water stagnates, as in the case of inactive buildings, chlorine molecules will not be as effective at killing microorganisms and pathogens, such as Legionella bacteria. This bacteria is capable of causing a potentially deadly pneumonia in humans, commonly known as Legionnaires’ disease. While reports of Legionnaires’ disease in El Paso have been very low, please refer to these CDC guidelines for minimizing Legionella risk before your building reopens.

Lead and Copper: While EPWater does not have lead or copper pipes in its distribution system, older homes and buildings (pre-1989) may have plumbing components made of these metals. Changes to water chemistry in stagnant water may result in corrosion of indoor plumbing components that could cause the release of metals. Please refer to these CDC guidelines to learn more about reducing lead and copper in drinking water.

EPWater is dedicated to helping our customers to safely reopen. If you have further questions, please call the EPWater water quality line at 915-594-5733.

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