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Barrow council condemned for air-conditioning system failure

A catalogue of failures by Barrow Borough council led to the outbreak of worst case of Legionnaires’ disease in the UK. That was the damning find in a Health and Safety Executive report published earlier this week. The outbreak occurred when the cleaning chemicals in the air-conditioning system at the council-run Forum 28 Arts Centre were not replaced. This led to a build-up of sludge-like substance in the cooling towers, which caused the system to spray infected droplets onto people walking through an alleyway outside the centre. The council’s failure to act, the report said, caused seven deaths and led to 180 people being infected with the disease in summer 2002. Colin Pickthall, the independent chair of the public meetings, said: “There was massive failure in the council as a whole. There was failure to respond when concerns about the [air-conditioning] equipment that eventually led to the Legionnaires’ outbreak were raised with them, and there was a failure to deal with contractors properly or even at all in some cases.”