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1 July 2020 Legionella in Water Supply at Brynmawr Foundation School

posted 1 Jul 2020, 05:41 by Ian Clarenbone
ONE of five schools in Blaenau Gwent which has remained closed this week due to issues with water supplies, had a positive test result for Legionella contamination, its headteacher has said. Tredegar Comprehensive and Willowtown Primary School, in Ebbw Vale, also did not re-open as planned on Monday, but it is hoped they will be able to this week.

Brynmawr Foundation School, along with Blaen-y-Cwm Primary School in Brynmawr and Ystruth Primary School in Blaina, is staying closed for the next two weeks after Blaenau Gwent council said tests indicated “a localised contamination” within the water supply. A letter sent to parents last week from the headteacher of Brynmawr Foundation School, Gerard McNamara, said: “As part of our health and safety routine procedures our water is tested every month. All previous tests have been negative. However, today we have had a positive test result for localised low levels of Legionella contamination which require a full system chlorination.”

Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council said the water supply at the schools cannot be used until it has been chlorinated and new tests show it is satisfactory. Labour councillor, Hedley McCarthy, said he has been contacted by worried parents and grandparents over the issue. He said “I am as concerned as they are, the safeguarding of our children and staff is paramount, to allay health and safety fears an urgent independent inquiry should be set up by Welsh Government to give transparency as to how this could have been allowed to happen.”

Alun Davies, member of the Senedd for Blaenau Gwent, has written to the council, asking it to be “open and transparent on what they knew and when. With five schools affected it feels like a systemic problem with the authority’s management rather than an individual problem with water supply,” he said. “I also want clear confirmation that there are no other problems with any other school and that all other schools passed the relevant tests.”
The NASUWT teaching union has warned that children and staff in schools which were open as hubs may have been put at risk. Mark Morris, national executive member for South East Wales said: “For this to have happened means that the absolute basic risk assessments and requirements to legally and safely disperse water haven’t been followed. That doesn’t even include any of the new or additional risks that may occur based on the COVID-19 guidelines. That some of the schools may have been partially opened as hub schools is a particular concern as staff, and pupils, may have drunk, or washed, in contaminated water. The lack of clarity in many risk assessments, particularly around what water testing has been in place during the partial closure is a concern. These tests should be routine and continuous and no different to the testing required after any prolonged period of closure such as the summer holidays.”

Cllr Steve Thomas, Blaenau Gwent council’s Labour group leader, said the response from the authority was “nothing short of shambolic. They have carried out the testing way too late bearing in mind that most schools have been closed for three months,” he added.

Councillor Joanne Collins, the council’s executive member for education, said: “This is disappointing for the pupils who planned to return to school and their families, but the safety and well-being of all our pupils and school staff is always the top priority. “Our health and safety and environmental health teams are working closely with all the schools affected to resolve the issues as quickly as possible however this is also reliant on some external factors, such as laboratory testing. We have been in touch with parents via the schools and will continue to communicate with them when we have further updates.”
A Welsh Government spokeswoman said: “We expect the local authority to follow public health procedures and escalate any issues as appropriate.”

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