A prohibition notice slapped on a factory at the centre of a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak remains in place a week after being imposed by health watchdogs.
Faltec Europe at Boldon Colliery was forced to close four cooling towers by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after significant levels of the potentially-lethal bacteria were found on site.
The Prohibition Notice is still in placeHealth and Safety Executive spokesman
Four workers at the Boldon Business park company and a resident whose home overlooks the factory have contracted the disease since October, with four of the cases occurring since April.
All required hospital treatment but have since been discharged.
As part of an investigation into the infection, the HSE served a prohibition notice on the firm.
Bosses at Faltec Europe are now using two chiller units on site to seal in cool water used in factory processes to prevent a risk of further infection.
They must satisfy experts at the HSE that there is no threat of further infection before the cooling towers can be brought back into use.
Sampling of the water systems has identified the presence of significant quantities of the legionella bacteria.
The company has locked off the cooling towers and carried out disinfection and control procedures.
The potentially-fatal lung condition does not spread from person to person, only via contaminated water droplets.
A HSE spokesperson said: “The prohibition notice is still in place.
“The company has brought onto site two chiller units which use a fully-enclosed system to cool water used in the factory processes.
“The operation of this system does not create an exposure risk to the outside environment.
“Should the company wish to revert to using the cooling towers, it will have to satisfy the HSE that they can be operated without creating a risk to employees or the public.
“If the company can demonstrate that the risk is adequately controlled, then it will have complied with the prohibition notice, and it will cease to have effect.”
Faltec says it is continuing to work with the HSE, as well as Public Health England and South Tyneside Council, and has acted on all recommendations made by the HSE.
The factory remains open as usual.
Dr Tricia Cresswell, of Public Health England’s North-East operation, said: “As a precaution staff, are advised to contact their GP if they develop a chest infection or other respiratory symptoms.”