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Solar Water Heating Panels at Holyrood written off because of Legionnaires’ disease

Filed under: Latest News

Solar Water Heating Panels at the Scottish Parliament, Holyrood, Edinburgh, Scotland, are written off for safety reasons.

Last updated with UK-FoI information (appended) on 9 July 2012

PLEASE NOTE FOLLOWING AN INBOUND PHONE CALL TO MY MOBILE ON 1100H SATURDAY 9 JUNE 2012 THAT THIS STORY IS UNDER VIGOROUS DISPUTE BY AES SOLAR, WHO TOTALLY REFUTE IT. WE ARE AWAITING WRITTEN CORRECTIONS FROM AES WHO, CURIOUSLY, REFUSED TO SUPPLY THEM WHEN I ASKED THEIR MD GEORGE GOUDSMIT TO DO SO.

A bank of solar water heating panels on the roof of the Scottish Parliament building at Holyrood has been written off.

Installed as part of the original green energy design criteria for the parliament the solar thermal panels were expected to generate enough power each year to heat 40,000 litres of water in Queensberry House, Edinburgh.

Instead they have caused a host of safety problems and they have now been abandoned.

  • As far back as 2008 they were discovered to be the source of deadly Legionella bacteria. (This is when we first contacted Which? magazine with our general concerns, but they suddenly decided not to publish after the industry sat on them.)
  • A further outbreak of Legionella occurred there in 2009.
  • In March this year (2012) officials admitted they had been forced to abandon the flawed solar heating installation.

OMERTA. Everyone knew for decades that there were problems, but a mafia / masonic code of silence was ruthlessly enforced.

  • No wonder I have been both threatened and condemned as scaremongering on numerous industry websites for raising Legionella safety issues.
  • No wonder the UK Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) (a virtual self-regulating accreditation-for-grants cartel) have summarily thrown me out.
  • No wonder the Energy Saving Trust (EST) describes unsafe twin coil cylinder plumbing as “best practice” in their CE 131 solar document.
  • No wonder the UK’s Institute of Domestic Heating and Environmental Engineers (IDHEE) refuses to have us as members.
  • No wonder the BSI are rushing to get a standard out which retro-validates all past unsafe installations as acceptable under a “code of practice”. Code of MALpractice, more like.
  • No wonder the Solar Trade Association have boycotted our technology and have thrown us out: we have been warning the industry about legionnaires’ disease risks for years. Instead of taking our advice on board they pursued a reckless course of not warning the public of increased Legionella risks and pressing ahead regardless, threatening us if we did not join their stupid coverup and and then throwing out for going public on the matter.

It’s now time to clean up the UK solar thermal industry. But will it?

  • Who installed these unsafe panels at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh? The answer is a very senior and highly respected ex- Solar Trade Association Board member and long standing thorn in the side of Solar Twin Ltd, Scottish “Highland company AES Ltd of Forres, a fully accredited manufacturer and installer under the UK Government’s Low Carbon Building Programme, was selected to install a solar thermal system at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, supplying 60% of the building’s hot water needs.” Only the solar figure today is 0% because they cut corners on safety. No wonder the AES Managing Director, George Goudsmit, told me (see this shocking video) “we are not interested” in wanting to clean up the UK solar thermal industry. He would have too much replumbing to do.
  • For the record, George Goudsmit AES phoned me on Saturday 9 June at 11 am. He refutes the Legionella in Holyrood Edinburgh story. But he refuses to do so in writing. I have emailed him the following: Dear George, with reference to my web story, you have just called me this morning at about 1100H, on my mobile using a number withheld. You said the story about Legionella in the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood was totally incorrect. I said that it came from a newspaper. You said it was incorrect and had since been corrected in the press. You said that there was no problem. You told me I was damaging the industry by publishing. I offered to correct any mistakes and I asked you to put your corrections in writing. You said you would not write anything because I would send it to my lawyers. I asked you again to send corrections. You said you did not have my email address anyway. I started saying it. You interrupted and said you did not want it and ordered me to “do it amicably”. I again agreed to make corrections and I again offered you my email address. I started saying it again but you interrupted me with a lecture. I rang off. Please send me your written corrections and evidence there is no problem as soon as possible. I am leaving the house at 1230H today and would like to set the record straight as soon as possible. I will make all necessary corrections on the basis of written evidence, but not n the basis of vague orders by phone. I look forward to your reply. Regards, Barry
  • What does this apparently shocking Legionella shambles say about the UK’s solar thermal supposed accreditation system? [Please ignore this next bit if it is too technical.] We have repeatedly failed to implement safer solar thermal plumbing with regulators. Instead we have been outvoted, threatened and thrown out of UK’s Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) for daring to try. MCS is far too self-serving and sloppy. Clearly that many of industry’s responsible top brass and Chairs, including UK’s Microgeneration Certification Scheme, including Solar Thermal Chair, Masonic Chris Roberts, now needs to resign. Chris Roberts has, er, not engaged constructively with us. He has undermined the viability of our business several times. I am very unhappy with the way he has allowed vested interests to ride roughshod over our innovations and safety improvements while he has chaired this supposedly technical but in reality more of a market-making cartel than any kind of accreditation committee. His track record on the crucial issue of Legionella safety displays both shocking ignorance and dreadful recklessness: while at the Centre for Alternative Technology, where I believe he gained a masters degree for doing what I am about to describe, he was apparently responsible for the design and construction of a large solar pre-heat system for an intermittently (warning bells) used residential properly which contained showers (warning bells) and only intermittent backup heating (warning bells), which I identified as a potentially legionella-lethal design and which was later decommissioned as a result. On the closely related dedicated solar volume issue, one which is about the exclusion of exclusion of our installations from MCS, because Legionella safety is at the core of this issue, he deliberately fillibustered, almost ruinously, from our perspective, against our proposed safety and plumbing changes to the solar thermal installation standard MIS 3001, something which MCS’s top man, Steering Group Chair Gideon Richards knows all about because I copied him in on his emails. Some of his stunts nearly bankrupted our business several times over while old solar interests took the low hanging fruit in Clear Skies, Low Carbon and subsequent subsidy schemes, schemes from which we were were initially excluded. Chris Roberts has been instrumental in hindering our innovation ever since he ran the MCS solar thermal working group at BRE. I have privately asked him to resign and to declare any masonic affiliations, with no success. Yet he chairs a hugely powerful secretive committee which is responsible for allocating about £250M into the construction industry, a sector which was the birthplace of and remains a current power base of freemasonry. Freemasonry is a potentially economic interest which must be disclosed beyond the chair, not least given that I have been personally boycotted on twitter by a solar engineer who was linked to a past STA board member. I contend that Chris Roberts has indeed presided over dreadful fillibustering which kept safer innovations off the market. He was also obstructive while he worked at BRE. Chris Roberts’ biased chairman of this working group has run for too long: a more independent Chair is now needed. He should resign. Other means having failed, we have a right to defend our business via social media and blogs, as we are doing now.
  • Will someone be prosecuted by the HSE? We hope so. But we doubt it. The UK solar thermal industry needs no green exemption from basic safety requirements, not even for its top brass / masonry. Bacteria are no respecters of rank even of 33 degrees of rank. They usually do respect temperatures over 60C though, by dying.
  • Why the cover-up?

At Solartwin, we plumb our solar hot water panels in differently – and far more safely.

It is now time for the thugs in the UK solar thermal industry to follow us and to stop fighting us.

 

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST RESPONSE: 9 July 2012. Two documents arrived.

 

DOCUMENT 1 (letter)

Mr B Johnston By email info@generationfit.co.uk
Dear Mr Johnston
REQUEST FOR INFORMATION: 2012-477379
9 July 2012
Information Management & Governance Team Edinburgh EH99 1SP
Tel: 0131-348-6913 Calls via RNID Typetalk: 18001-0131-348-6913 Fax: 0131-348-5050 claire.turnbull@scottish.parliament.uk
I refer to your recent enquiry on the subject of legionella at the Scottish Parliament and in particular the questions you raised about the solar panels. Information about legionella is publically available however by way of assistance I have provided a copy of a published paper, dated 2009, which covers the issue of water quality at Holyrood. I have also provided background information on the solar panel installation which I hope goes some way to answering your questions although we are somewhat limited in the amount of information readily available as this installation was procured as part of the Holyrood construction project.
The solar panels were incorporated into the overall cost for the trade package contract for mechanical services within a larger area of the building. The collector panels were installed by the roof package contractor. The solar panels were designed by AES and installed and commissioned by Rotary in February 2006. Maintenance on the system has been undertaken by the Parliament’s on-site maintenance contractor and therefore no additional costs have been incurred. The solar panels are currently not in use due to the very low hot water usage in the area they serve and the buildings’ Energy Performance Certificate rating has not been
recalculated since the panels were de-commissioned. The water required for the area which was originally served by the solar thermal system is currently electricity heated. This system consumes approximately 8000 kWh per year which equates to less than 0.2% of the Parliament’s electricity requirements. Offsetting a proportion of this electricity by solar energy would not impact on our energy rating.
In terms of your broad request for “all information you hold regarding legionella at Scottish Parliament Buildings in Edinburgh” at this stage it is not clear exactly what information you are seeking. In order to consider your request further we would be grateful for clarification regarding the specific focus of the correspondence you require together with covering dates if possible. This will enable us to determine the scope of your request in terms of our staff time and the application of possible fees. You have asked for “all site photos and plumbing diagrams” and we note that this part of your request may be subject to copyright requirements.
In replying to this letter it would be helpful if you could quote the reference number above.
Yours sincerely,
Claire Turnbull Head of Information Governance

 

 

DOCUMENT 2 (report)

 

 

 

SPCB(2009)Paper 6
21 January 2009
WATER QUALITY MANAGEMENT WITHIN THE SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT
Issue
1.    The Facilities Management Office (FM) seeks to ensure that best practice health and safety is delivered at all times. The purpose of this paper is to inform the SPCB of these practices in relation to water quality management and of the actions taken by FM following a recent risk assessment (in line with health and safety legislation) of the Parliament’s water systems.
2.    This paper also informs the SPCB of the detection of raised levels of the fluorescent strain of the legionella bacteria in June 2008 which was effectively managed and controlled by Facilities Management, in consultation with the SPCB’s water quality contractor NALCO, and in accordance with the Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) L8 for the control of legionella bacteria in water systems. At an early stage it was established that any risk to building occupants was controllable and that there was no risk from drinking water. Contact: John McArthur, Ext 86928.
Background
3.    The FM Office has robust regimes and control measures in place to manage water quality within the Holyrood building. These control measures are dynamic and must be regularly reviewed in accordance with building usage. As part of these measures, the following controls and monitoring regimes are undertaken:
    Monthly temperature readings     Quarterly biological testing of potable water     Quarterly legionella sampling     Quarterly chlorination of shower heads     Annual tank chlorination     Review of risk assessments at appropriate intervals
4. bacteria, and in fact this bacteria is naturally found in hot and cold water systems. The presence of legionella bacteria does not necessarily indicate a serious risk of infection, however, they are potentially hazardous in that exposure to them may cause a range of illnesses, referred to collectively as legionellosis. Legionella exposure can arise wherever legionella is present in water and there is potential for the inhalation of water if this exists in aerosol form ie the bacteria needs to be
Any building containing water systems is at risk of developing legionella
1
breathed to cause any ill effect.
Discussion
5.    During routine testing of water outlets in June 2008 the presence of raised levels of legionella bacteria was detected from a little used outlet in Queensberry House. FM commenced prompt action in line with the ACoP and consulted with water quality experts NALCO.
6.    Following the detection of the bacteria, the affected outlet was immediately isolated followed by disinfection and subsequent testing. Further bacteria were detected and once again the system was chlorinated and tested. With the assistance of NALCO, the hot water cylinder in Queensberry House was identified as the potential source of bacteria and immediately isolated and disconnected. Subsequent monthly testing regimes have produced clear results.
7.    A technical assessment of any risk to occupants who had access to the identified areas (Queensberry House and Canongate are both served by the affected system), taking into account the limited risk of inhaling aerosols of the water, was determined to be controllable.
8.    One of the more recent works undertaken in accordance with good practice, and FM’s ongoing management plan, was a risk assessment of Holyrood’s water systems. The risk assessment was completed by external experts in December 08 and highlighted several recommendations which FM are in the process of implementing. FM has also taken the decision to implement additional measures, over and above those recommended in the risk assessment and ACoP guidance, as a precautionary measure and to ensure control measures remain effective. Additional tasks being implemented include:
    Weekly flushing of showers;     Removal of under-used showers where appropriate;     Weekly flushing of sentinel taps;     Increase scope of legionella testing across the site;     Introduction of additional flushing and cleaning of tanks;  Remove nozzles from spray taps to remove the low risk from
aerosol generation and increase water flow through the system;     Monthly temperature readings from water tanks;     Additional cleaning of tanks.
9. changes to building use.
These control measures will be subject to continual review in line with
Resource Implications
10.    As a result of the recommendations from the recent risk assessment, and 2
additional work implemented by FM, there will be a small increase in annual maintenance costs, which can be contained within existing budgets. There may also be a modest increase in water usage.
Equalities Implications
11.    There are no anticipated equality issues.
Publication Scheme
12.    It is intended that this paper be published in line with the Parliament’s Publication Scheme.
Summary
13.    The SPCB are advised that following the detection of legionella bacteria within the water system in QBH prompt and proper action was taken by Facilities Management, in consultation with water quality experts, and in line with the ACoP. At an early stage it was established that the risk to building occupants was controllable and that there was no risk from drinking water.
14.    FM have taken on board the results of the recent risk assessment and taken further steps, beyond current guidelines. A summary of these actions are given below:
1. Weekly flushing regime of showers and other little used outlets throughout the building.
2. Additional planned maintenance work will be undertaken on the water systems which exceed those required by current guidance and good practice.
3. There will be a potential increase in water usage across the site and this may increase the building running costs but this is necessary to ensure the effective control of the system.
4. As the control of the water systems requires a dynamic approach, the FM Office may have to amend existing control measures as necessary.
Stewart Gilfillan Director of Technology and Facilities Management
3


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