MEPs demand Legionnaire's shutdown
Monday 10 June 2002
MEPs will today demand the suspension of sittings of the European Parliament in Strasbourg unless they receive health safety guarantees after the second Legionnaire's disease scare in two years.
Despite the discovery of the deadly bacteria in hot water pipes last week, leaders of the parliament's political groups ordered this week's session to proceed after being assured that the building was safe.
MEPs who arrive this afternoon at a building offering cold showers and kitchens without hot water, after maintenance staff flushed the system with chlorine and switched off the water heating. Dutch Socialist MEPs have allowed their assistants to stay away although they, like most MEPs, plan to attend.
The discovery of the bacteria has polarised the debate over the two sites of the European Parliament and the fact that MEPs are forced to commute between buildings in Brussels and Strasbourg.
Experts believe the presence of the bacteria may be inevitable given that the Strasbourg parliament is empty three weeks out of four when MEPs are in Brussels.
Legionella thrives in empty pipes which are used irregularly, and the only solution may be to flush the system with chlorine before each monthly sitting, some MEPs believe.
Arlene McCarthy, a Labour MEP, said: "I will be asking for a guarantee that the building is safe and, in the absence of a certificate, I will be asking for the suspension of future sittings".
Michiel van Hulten, a Dutch Socialist MEP who is campaigning for the parliament to have just one site, says that hundreds of MEPs and staff now have reservations about the Strasbourg building.
"The whole thing is farcical," he said. "It is not just a democratic problem, it is now a question of health and safety."
The parliamentary authorities will review the position after they have received the results of tests next Monday. David Harley, the parliament's director of information, said: "It is not exceptional to find this bacteria in a public building."
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