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Legionella school hit by asbestos scare

A Croydon secondary school which had been forced to close after legionella bacteria was detected in its water systems opened this week, despite discovering asbestos on its premises.The asbestos was found two weeks ago, embedded in concrete underneath an existing water tank. A Croydon council spokesperson said: “The asbestos was found underneath some debris contained within the floor void, which is six inches solid. It was left there, in situ, and the void resealed by the contractors.” He insisted Selsdon High School had taken the right measures to remove all risks associated with inhaling the carcinogenic substance. “This is one of the safest ways of dealing with the asbestos,” he said. ”As it was not disturbed there was no danger to anyone or any risk of airborne fibres escaping into the atmosphere. Remember, the asbestos was only found because the contractors were accessing damaged pipe work to repair a leak.” Selsdon High School has endured a litany of setbacks this year. On April 5, it was forced to close its doors temporarily to pupils and staff after routine maintenance work to the heating and water systems at the adjoining Monks Hill Sports Centre uncovered traces of the legionella bacteria in the water supply. The sports centre receives its water services from the boiler housed at the school. Specialist contractor Hertel UK was called in to treat the water systems. A new cold-water storage tank was installed temporarily, while a new, hot press steel sectional water tank, ordered from Scotland, arrived. The school issued a provisional re-opening date of April 30, when it was anticipated that the remedial work designed to eliminate the bacteria would be finished. While this was being carried out two leaks were detected in school’s pipework, which dated back to 1960s, and which were difficult to access. As the leaks were leading vast pools of stagnant water, a breeding ground for legionella bacteria, these had be repaired, halting the remedial work and pushing back the school’s planned re-opening date. Kenneth Ashley, a former Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector and lead author of the HSE’s Approved Code of Practice and Guidance on The Control of Legionella Bacteria in Water Systems, outlined the measures taken by the school to eradicate the bacteria. “Sampling results on April 5 showed that approximately 30 out of the 65 outlets in both the school and the sports centre were positive with low counts of legionella. Since then remedial work has been carried out which included removing dead legs in the plumbing system,” he said. “New boilers and calorifiers are being introduced and thermal temperatures have been raised between 65 and 70 deg C and a thermal and chlorine disinfection is planned.”