Cumbria

Legionnaires' Disease risk: Barrow shopkeepers face legal action

False-colour transmission electron micrograph of a colony of the Gram-negative bacteria Legionella pneumophila, cause of Legionnaires' disease. Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption The bacteria Legionella pneumophila is the cause of Legionnaires' disease

Shopkeepers risking an outbreak of Legionnaires' Disease have been threatened with legal action.

"Critical and serious" issues have been found in shops leased out by Barrow Council in Cumbria.

Eighteen shops in Barrow, Walney and Dalton have been checked but inspectors could not gain access to one.

Assistant housing director Janice Sharp said the council could "go to court to get a warrant" to get access to do a safety check.

"Which is what we will do as they will be in breach of their lease," she said.

Councillors warned the threat was especially "serious" because of the town's history of the disease.

A faulty air conditioning system at the council-run Forum 28 arts centre caused an outbreak 2002, resulting in the deaths of seven people and the infection of 180.

The authority was later cleared of corporate manslaughter, but fined £125,000 for breaching health and safety laws.

Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption The bacteria, which come from sources of water, such as rivers and lakes, can quickly spread in the complex water systems of hotels, hospitals and office blocks

Legionnaires' disease is a potentially fatal lung infection caused by legionella bacteria, which can thrive in water systems.

Barrow Council has warned tenant shopkeepers they need to take the risk seriously, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

Tenants have been changing water systems in shops they rent without the "consent or knowledge" of the council, councillors have been told.

This made it difficult to monitor premises which were non-compliant with strict guidance, they heard.

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