Legionella Discovered in Navy HQ

Risk of Legionnaire’s Disease In Military Building

The risk of legionella has increased during the pandemic with two high-profile buildings being the latest to discover this deadly bacterium.

The Royal Navy’s HQ is temporarily closed following legionella bacteria being discovered in the water systems. Leach Building houses a section of the navy’s HQ within Portsmouth Harbour. The building is located on Whale Island as part of HMS Excellent, and is home to The First Sea Lord, who is the head of the navy. It is here that legionella has been detected and is now being removed as part of an extensive cleaning and sanitisation process.

Build-up of Legionella Bacteria

Legionella is a type of bacteria that thrives in stagnant water, particularly when the temperature is between 25 to 50 degrees Celsius with poor flow. The reason that this bacterium is such a risk is because it can often lead to the development of Legionnaire’s Disease, which is a severe respiratory illness similar to pneumonia. The condition can be fatal which is why it is a health and safety requirement for building owners to carry out legionella testing to detect and remove the presence of this bacterium from their water systems.

How Does Legionella Spread?

As a respiratory illness, if a person comes into contact with water, or water vapour which is contaminated with the legionella bacteria, then this can be inhaled into their lungs. Some early signs that a person might have contracted Legionnaire’s Disease are mental confusion, pain and inflammation within the lungs, weak muscles and even gastric symptoms such as nausea or diarrhoea.

High Change of Legionella

Following the Covid-19 lockdown, there is a higher than usual chance that buildings will be susceptible to a build-up of legionella. Unfortunately, as water systems haven’t been used or flushed through as often as usual, this stagnation in the water supply can provide the perfect conditions for legionella to thrive in. The Health and Safety Executive is urging all building owners to carry out a thorough risk assessment of their water systems and air conditioning units before returning to business as usual. If there has been any inoccupation of your building throughout the pandemic, then you will be at risk of legionella. It is therefore essential that you identify the presence or potential for this deadly bacterium before welcoming occupants or visitors back to your premises.

Unfortunately, the Royal Navy’s headquarters are not the only high-profile building to have reported the presence of legionella. Mid-August has also seen the Ministry of Defence’s Abbey Wood site shut down in Filton Road, Bristol. This building is home to the Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) organisation, and has detected legionella in parts of its water system.

Removing Legionella

Once you have detected that legionella either exists or there is the potential for an outbreak, then it’s essential to put control measures in place. Any legionella testing must be carried out to L8 standards, and if it is identified you may need to clean or refurbish parts of your water system to prevent the spread of the bacteria. Going forward, testing should be carried out every two years as a rule of thumb, although it may be necessary for this to be more frequent if you’ve had legionella before or if other risk factors exist.

If you haven’t yet tested for legionella and have already reopened your business premises, then now is the time to address this health and safety concern as a top priority.