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23 July 2018 Legionnnaire’s bug shut Belfast Council’s Avoniel Leisure Centre Spa on three occasions

posted 24 Jul 2018, 07:14 by Ian Clarenbone

The spa area of Avoniel Leisure Centre had to close on three occasions, with follow-up water tests after these closures accounting for additional failed tests.

Day-to-day running of Belfast's leisure centres was outsourced to social enterprise Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL) in 2015. GLL said: "Routine water samples of the spa pool are carried out on a monthly basis to ensure the highest compliance with health and safety legislation. The spa pool and infrastructure at Avoniel is much older than at other leisure centres and requires a lot more maintenance resulting in more closures, as pipework needs to be updated and maintained.

"Following some of the closures in 2017, a full overhaul of the system was carried out in partnership with Belfast City Council. As part of GLL and Belfast City Council's continued commitment to investing and maintaining some of the older leisure facilities in Belfast, a refurbishment of the pool and pool tank at Avoniel was also completed this week."

Figures show all incidents of unsatisfactory levels of Legionella were found since GLL took over the management of Belfast's leisure centres in January 2015. There were two other incidents where unsatisfactory levels of Legionella were found in Belfast spa pools, both at Shankill Leisure Centre, on June 25, 2015 and October 17, 2016. Neither of these incidents required the pool to be closed.

Belfast City Council said: "Health and safety at leisure centres is a top priority for both Belfast City Council and GLL, which operates the centres on our behalf. Environmental health officers take water samples routinely from all pools on a regular basis which are then sent to an outside laboratory for testing. When the results are returned any necessary action is taken immediately. As part of the council's strategic partnership with GLL and the independent Active Belfast Board we meet regularly to review service standards and performance through a range of mechanisms and are confident that GLL operates within all health and safety guidelines."

In April GLL defended itself against claims from union Unite - which represents some workers in the leisure centres - that changes to staff practices had resulted in thousands of pounds worth of damage at leisure facilities. Addressing staff numbers, GLL said it had increased the number of pool plant operators from 15 to 55 since taking over the operation, which has increased the number of pool plants operators on shift across its 14 facilities.

"An independent review of leisure centre operations was carried out in 2017 and no evidence was found to suggest that GLL operates outside of health and safety legislation or guidance," GLL added.