The Liabilities Surrounding Water Quality in Assisted Living Facilities
Water quality is an aspect of our daily lives that many of us take for granted. The United States boasts some of the safest drinking water supplies in the world, thanks to stringent regulations and rigorous quality testing protocols. Despite these protections, water contamination events have and do occur. For seniors, especially those with weakened immune systems, contaminated water supplies can be deadly. In assisted living facilities, maintaining safe and adequate drinking water is critical. Assisted living facility insurance forms the foundation of risk management should water quality become a risk issue, offering protection against numerous liabilities. For additional protection, facility owners and managers need to take extra steps to ensure that their residents are safe from water contamination hazards.
Water Contamination: An Overview
Drinking water is highly regulated on federal, state, and local levels. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for federal drinking water standards; these standards have substantially decreased harmful pathogens in water supplies throughout the country. On the state and local levels, municipal drinking water supplies may be subjected to even more stringent quality controls. Nevertheless, surface waters, underground aquifers, and public drinking water reservoirs can become contaminated, often from environmental spills, agricultural runoff, and storm activity. Common contaminants in drinking water include:
- Organic solvents
- Petroleum products
- Human and animal wastes
- Pharmaceutical residues
- Heavy metals
- Naturally-occurring contaminants such as arsenic, lead, and radioactive materials
Because water-borne contaminants can be so difficult to track, the exact impact on human health is unknown. Environmental experts suggest, however, that illnesses and health issues from contaminated drinking water supplies cost billions of dollars each year and result in hundreds of avoidable deaths.
Risks from Water Supply Infrastructure
Contamination at the source is only part of the overall health risk picture. America’s aging water delivery infrastructure has been implicated in dozens of water quality incidents. High levels of lead or other heavy metals may be found in areas where water supply lines are old; this can also be an issue in older assisted living facilities that have not received plumbing upgrades in recent years.
At-risk populations, such as the immune compromised and the elderly, face far higher risks of disease from contaminated water. Residents of assisted living facilities may be affected by contaminated water, potentially leading to severe illness or death. A water quality incident may result in policies forbidding the use of tap water until the contamination threat has cleared; these policies can also negatively impact seniors’ lives in living facilities.
Protecting Life and Health With Water Quality Testing
Assisted living facility insurance can be seen as the backbone of protection for the owners, residents, and staff of assisted living facilities. In the face of a water contamination incident, this specialized form of liability insurance may provide coverage against legal claims and the remediation needed to return water supplies to safe standards. To better protect their residents, assisted living facility managers may wish to implement water quality testing.
Periodic water quality testing, such as done on a quarterly basis, can pinpoint health threats before they can impact residents. Many state and county health departments offer water quality testing services for care facilities, and in fact, such testing may be part of annual inspections. Care facility managers should also be aware that scalding injuries are a common risk, and as part of a water quality assurance program, temperatures of water at the tap should be monitored on a regular basis. By implementing water safety testing and monitoring, and by ensuring that assisted living facility insurance coverage is adequate for foreseeable and unexpected risks, care facility managers and staff may continue to provide safe and responsible care for their residents.
About Caitlin Morgan
Caitlin Morgan specializes in insuring assisted living facilities and nursing homes and can assist you in providing insurance and risk management services for this niche market. Give us a call to learn more about our programs at 877.226.1027.