Legionella outbreak ‘avoidable’ claims Kelso chemical boss

The boss of a Kelso firm which manufactures water treatment and environmental care products believes the legionella outbreak in Edinburgh, which has claimed two lives, could have been avoided.

“Not a single cooling tower need be at risk of the Legionaire bacteria infestation ever again,” said Derek Cameron, founder and managing director of Scotmas in Spylaw Road this week.

His comments came as five people who contracted the disease in the south-west district of the capital confirmed they would be taking legal action over the outbreak.

“It is absolutely straightforward to eliminate the bacteria using chemicals and dosing machinery

“We can solve this problem easily and for good but we weren’t asked to treat the towers in question in Edinburgh before the outbreak took hold,” said Mr Cameron.

“I cannot understand why any company which is dependent on clean, safe water should take risks when the solution is clearly and reliably available. There is a vast amount of academic scientific proof that shows this bacteria simply cannot survive when the right precautions are taken.”

Mr Cameron said the solution lay with chlorine dioxide which, when run into a water supply at miniscule dosage levels (one part per million), ensures that legionella bacteria cannot survive without any risk to drinking water.

“The bacteria live and eat in a slime that forms on the sides of the cooling tower,” explained Mr Cameron. “It’s in this aqueous film that the bacteria thrive so just keeping the water supply clean isn’t enough. You have to get rid of that film to make sure that no bacteria can survive.

“Chlorine dioxide has been around since the 1880s and was used in the Niagara Falls water treatment plant in 1944. It became a widely used water disinfectant in 1956 when Brussels changed from chlorine to chlorine dioxide in its supply.

“It continues to be used by the majority of back-packer venturing into areas where the water source is less than guaranteed safe and it forms the backbone of water safety everywhere from hospitals to chicken farms.

“Here is Kelso, our team of chemists, engineers and microbiologists have developed highly sophisticated machinery to ensure that the dosage is accurate at all times and that it never strays outside the correct range.”

Mr Cameron admitted he was “puzzled” that his firm’s product was not deployed by water quality control experts in Edinburgh.

“I really don’t know why,” he told us. “Obviously, no one wants to have to face up to a Legionnaires outbreak but what is so frustrating for me is that it is completely avoidable.

“There is no need for the grief and heartache that has come with this outbreak.”