Two cooling towers shut as LD search continues

TWO cooling towers in South Wales have now been closed down as the search for the source of a legionnaires disease outbreak clustered around the Heads of the Valleys corridor continues.
Nineteen people have now been linked with the outbreak and all have required hospital treatment. Four more cases are being investigated, two of the four - a 70-year-old man and a 64-year-old woman - having died.

All ten companies with registered cooling towers and evaporative condensers in the Merthyr Tydfil, Blaenau Gwent and Rhymney area have now been inspected. Three were served improvement notices. Another three premises with non-registered cooling towers and/or evaporative condensers that were not registered with the appropriate local authority were identified and visited.

An unnamed company in the Rhymney Valley voluntarily shut down its cooling tower in order for it to be disinfected. Public Health Wales says that this is a precautionary action following preliminary microbiological results on samples taken from the cooling tower which make it possible that legionella bacteria is there. The HSE has confirmed that the cooling tower was being operated in accordance with the Approved Code of Practice.

A prohibition notice has been served on a site in Dowlais, Merthyr Tydfil where the cooling towers were not being operated in accordance with the Approved Code of Practice. The cooling tower has since been cleaned and disinfected and the company was allowed to restart work.

Local authority environmental health officers have ensured that samples have been taken from a number of sites to try and identify whether the legionella bacterium is present. Results are not yet available for many of these sites.

HSE and local authority environmental health officers (from all authorities involved) have also visited more than 100 other workplaces in the area as a further means of attempting to identify the source. During this process, the HSE issued another improvement notice to improve the management of a process. These checks are continuing.

Dr Gwen Lowe, head of the outbreak control team and consultant in communicable disease control for Public Health Wales, said: 'Our investigations show that there is no single building visited by all the people linked to the outbreak. The sources, or source, are therefore likely to be industrial processes such as cooling towers.

'Environmental health officers and Health and Safety Executive officials have visited and checked all the registered cooling towers in the area under investigation. They have also visited unregistered cooling towers. These investigations continue.

'We have no evidence that the cooling tower served with a prohibition notice is linked to any cases of legionnaires' disease. We also have no evidence that the cooling tower which was voluntarily closed on Saturday is linked to any case of Legionnaires' disease.'

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