Guangdong Engineering Technology Research Center of Water Security Regulation and Control for Southern China, Key Laboratory of Water Cycle and Water Security in Southern China of Guangdong Higher Education Institute, School of Civil Engineering, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, Guangdong 510275, China. Electronic address: [Email]
The ubiquitous presence of biofilms in premise plumbing and stagnation, which commonly occurs in premise plumbing, can exacerbate the decay of chlorine residual in drinking water. Using biofilms grown in a simulated premise plumbing setup fed directly with freshly treated water at two full-scale water treatment plants, we previously determined the mass transfer coefficients for chlorine decay in premise plumbing. These coefficients coupled with inactivation kinetics of L. pneumophila released from biofilms reported previously were integrated into a Monte Carlo framework to estimate the infection risk of biofilm-derived L. pneumophila from 1 to 48 h of stagnation. The annual infection risk was significantly higher when water stayed stagnant for up to 48 h in pipes covered internally with biofilms, compared to clean pipes without biofilms. The decay of residual chlorine due to biofilms during 48-hour stagnation led to up to 6 times increase in the annual infection risk compared to the case where biofilms was absent. Global sensitivity analysis revealed that the rate of L. pneumophila detachment from biofilms and the decay of chlorine residual during stagnation are the two most important factors influencing the infection risks. Stagnation caused by water use patterns and water-saving devices in the premise plumbing can lead to increased infection risk by biofilm-derived L. pneumophila. Overall, this study's findings suggested that biofilms could induce chlorine decay and consequently increase L. pneumophila infection risk. Thus, reducing stagnation, maintaining residual chlorine, and suppressing biofilm growth could contribute to better management of L. pneumophila infection risk.