Experts investigate how to stop bacteria infections

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Experts have been brought in to investigate ways to alter Northampton’s fountain so it cannot become infected with bacteria.

The fountain in the Market Square was switched off last week after ‘higher than normal’ levels of legionella and other bacteria were found in the water.

To date, nobody has been admitted to Northampton General Hospital as a result of infection from the fountain, but the council has said it is likely to remain switched off for at least the next two weeks while further tests are carried out on water samples.

Council cabinet member, Councillor Tim Hadland (Con, Old Duston) said: “Our testing looks for incredibly low levels of bacteria, which means we can take swift precautionary action before a serious problem has a chance to develop.

“We are now going through a process of disinfecting the fountain and will be testing and re-testing the water quality so we can feel confident to switch it back on again.

“We have asked an independent expert to suggest improvements to the water feature and whether there is anything else we can do to further reduce the likelihood of this happening again.”

The fountain was switched off on Tuesday, August 14 after bacteria was found in the water during a routine test.

As well as higher than normal levels of legionella, the council has said the tests also revealed ‘very low levels of e coli’ in the water.

Tests on the fountain are carried out by a specialist company every month. Official regulations suggest such water features need only be tested once a year.

Councillors have described the need to turn off the fountain as ‘very frustrating’, but insisted they will take no risks with public safety.

The fountain was installed in the Market Square in 2010 at a cost of £98,000.

When it was first unveiled, opposition councillor Tony Clarke (Ind, Castle) raised concerns that the fountain could become contaminated by animal faeces.

Following the latest test results, he called for the fountain to either be switched off or fenced-off so no children could play in the water.

He said: “I think the cost of keeping it open safely would far outweigh the benefits, so I think the council should now come clean and admit they’ve got it wrong.

“They’ve either got to fence it off or switch it off and admit they made a mistake.”