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Legonnaire's disease hits fire station

PUBLISHED: 10:35 10 November 2008 | UPDATED: 21:44 05 July 2010

A UNION chief has demanded major safety improvements at Lowestoft's main fire station after the third discovery this year of the bacteria that can cause Legionnaires' disease.

A UNION chief has demanded major safety improvements at Lowestoft's main fire station after the third discovery this year of the bacteria that can cause Legionnaires' disease.

The contamination of the water system at the Normanshurst station led to the shower block being declared out of bounds and now the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has demanded action to resolve the ongoing problem.

Suffolk County Council, which runs the fire service, has insisted action is being taken to clean and improve the system, and that levels of the Legionella bacteria were so low no one had been put at risk.

However, the FBU's Lowestoft branch secretary, Phil Johnston, said: “We've had enough of this now. When the last outbreak happened, people were up in arms. This is the third time in a year.

“We want whatever it takes to make it safe again. We are fed up with the risk and being without our showers. There may have been a lot of people who breathed this in, but because we are fit and healthy, our systems may have beaten it down. If this was a public establishment like a sports centre, it would have been shut down, but they are quite happy to put our lives at risk because that is our job.”

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.

It is not the first time the fire station, in Normanston Drive, has been at the centre of a Legionella scare. In February 2007 two firefighters and a female cleaner underwent tests following the discovery of the Legionella bacteria. They were later given the all-clear.

Work to remove sections of pipes where contaminated water stands is being carried out, but Mr Johnston said a bigger overhaul was needed, even though firefighters are due to move to a new station off the relief road next year.

A county council spokesman confirmed there had been three positive tests for Legionella during the past year, leading to an increase in monitoring.

In relation to the latest discovery, she added: “This was a very low reading and does not pose a significant risk to those working at the fire station.

“Traces were identified in October and a disinfectant process was applied to remove the Legionella. As the level of Legionella was very low, the specialist company did not recommend that the showers were taken out of use.

“However, the procedure for the Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service is that showers are taken out of use when any reading is identified.”

Alternative showers facilities had been provided, she added.

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