Got a Spa, Hot Tub etc.? You need to know about legionella.

Posted by on Friday, May 13, 2016 Under: Health & Safety
legionella in hot tubs

Legionella is a type of bacteria that is of particular concern to the pool operator, or indeed, any operator of a facility that has a hot and cold water system. The legionella bacteria causes legionairres disease, which is an infection of the lungs. The mortality rate is currently 12%, which means that if 100 people were to contract the disease during an outbreak, approximately 12 of them would die.

Legionella bacteria multiply in water and the disease is caught by inhalation. This means that wherever it is possible to inhale water, there is a risk of contracting legionairres disease. Anywhere where the water can form an aerosol (tiny droplets of water suspended in the air) is at risk. For the pool plant operator the danger areas are:

1. Spa pools - the turbulence of the water at the surface, caused by the air jets.
2. Showers - when someone takes a shower, they will inevitably inhale some of the mist.
3. Taps - when the tap water hits the basin, there is a risk of creating the aerosol, which is then breathed in.

What are the control measures?
Like with many things, it's better to prevent legionella from multiplying in the first place. This can be done by not providing the legionella bacteria with an environment in which they can thrive. Legionella bacteria do very well in an environment that is warm (between 20 - 50 degrees Celsius) and has a source of nutrition (such as bio-films). Keeping water outside of the 20 - 50 degrees Celsius range is one of the key control measures. The other main control measure is biocides. Chlorine is very efficient at killing legionella bacteria and levels should be closely monitored to make sure they are in the correct range (which for a spa pool is 3-5 ppm). Another control measure is the physical removal of legionella and bio-films via filtration (spa pool filters should be backwashed daily) and cleaning/de-scaling/scrubbing any and all areas where legionella could multiply (spa pool pipework, shower heads, balance tanks etc.)

Recent Outbreak
A DIY chain has paid over £200,000 in damages to the relatives of three men who were killed after being struck down with Legionnaires' disease caused by a filthy hot tub on display. Delivery driver Richard Griffin, 64, and customers William Hammersley, 79, and Harry Cadman, 71, died after contracting the disease in the summer of 2012. 
A report by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) said the 'probable source' came from a hot tub on display at the JTF Warehouse in Fenton, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. 

The report found that had not been filtered or cleaned for weeks, causing the water to stagnate and leading to the 
formation of bacteria and build up of Legionnaires' disease droplets. When the hot tub was then turned on it is believed the particles became airborne and spread around the garden centre. 

Father-of-two Mr Griffin, from Clayton, Staffordshire, was the first victim of the outbreak. It is believed he 
contracted the disease while delivering meat to the store's cafe and started getting headaches, fever and 
hallucinations. He later lost consciousness at his home and died at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire from multiple organ failure on August 2, 2012, after spending a week in hospital. 

Grandfather-of-two Mr Hammersley, from Chesterton, Staffordshire, passed away on August 4 while Mr Cadman, from Stoke-on-Trent, died from the disease days later. 

Following their deaths the grieving relatives of the three men took legal action against the DIY firm who admitted civil liability earlier this year. 

Lawyers working for the families revealed they had been paid a substantial payout by the company for their 'pain and suffering, lost earnings and care'. 

Mr Griffin's daughter, Rachel Griffin, 46, who now lives in Cumbria, said: 'We're relieved that the legal case has now concluded without the need for a court battle. 

'But we do hope that there is progress with the criminal prosecution case and the inquest over the coming 
months so that we can begin to move on with our lives. 

'The whole family misses my dad so much. He had a great sense of humour and always cheered us all up. 

'Losing him was horrific and to know that he died through no fault of his own is devastating. 

'He was due to retire later that year and was in good health. We just never expected anything like this. 

'Nothing can ever bring our dad back, but we just wanted to make sure that justice was done and that there was some accountability for his death. 

'I truly hope no one ever has to go through what we have.'  

A further 18 people needed hospital treatment following the outbreak that summer. 

In total 14 survivors and the families of the three men who died, all sought compensation for the horror caused by the disease. 

While 13 cases were settled out-of-court, the families of those who lost relatives and one survivor who contracted a serious lung infection pursued their cases through the courts. 

Personal injury lawyers Irwin Mitchell issued formal court proceedings against JTF Wholesale Limited, which has 13 branches across the UK. 

Amandeep Dhillon, a lawyer from Irwin Mitchell, said: 'Nothing can turn back the clock but we are pleased to have finally concluded these cases, allowing those families affected to begin to move on with their lives. 

'There are strict controls in place which are designed to reduce the risk of Legionella contamination in public 
spaces, but sadly all of those who contracted this dreadful condition were badly let down by JTF Wholesale on this occasion. 

'It's important that lessons are learned from this incident to ensure that the risk of any similar outbreak in the 
future is reduced.' 

In : Health & Safety 

Tags: legionella