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Disease fears spark fire station revamp

PUBLISHED: 15:43 29 December 2008 | UPDATED: 22:06 05 July 2010

SAFETY improvements costing about £10,000 have been carried out at Lowestoft's main fire station after repeated discoveries of the bacteria that can cause Legionnaires' disease.

SAFETY improvements costing about £10,000 have been carried out at Lowestoft's main fire station after repeated discoveries of the bacteria that can cause Legionnaires' disease.

Fire service officials came under pressure to act after The Journal revealed in November how there had been three discoveries this year of the Legionella bacteria in the Normanshurst station's shower block.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) demanded urgent action to protect its members, even though firefighters are due to move to a new station in October.

Phil Johnston, the secretary of the Lowestoft branch of the FBU, said: “I am happy, but what has been done should have taken place three years ago.

“We were banging our heads against a brick wall until the media attention. The impression I have got is that if it was an old people's home it would have been considered as high risk.”

Legionnaires' disease is a rare form of pneumonia, which is fatal in about 5-15pc of cases. The disease is most often contracted by inhaling mist from contaminated water sources such as whirlpool baths, showers and cooling towers.

Safety work has included the replacement of 'dead legs' in pipes, where contaminated water is left to stand, along with a new water storage tank and shower heads.

The station's shower block has been out of action since the last discovery of Legionella in the autumn and while safety work has now been completed, the FBU has insisted it is not used until follow-up tests are completed in about a month.

Firefighters have been forced to use showers at the town's other fire station, in Clifton Road, or at the local police station in the meantime.

Mr Johnston added: “We are happy that the work has been done, but we are not very pleased that we will have been without showers for three months.”

Assistant chief fire officer Gary Phillips insisted the risk to firefighters from the Legionella discovered at Normanshurst was “extremely low”, but added: “We decided in the interests of health and safety to spend a bit of money.

“We'll continue to monitor it. The safety and welfare of firefighters is paramount. The FBU has the right to be concerned about the welfare of its members.”

The new Lowestoft fire station is currently being built on a site at the junction of Stradbroke Road and Tom Crisp Way as part of a £27m Suffolk County Council private finance initiative to rebuild and refurbish stations across the county.

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