More than 130 sewage leaks found in Government buildings

Whiffy Whitehall! More than 130 sewage leaks were found in Government buildings over the past year as trade union bosses hit out at civil servants being put at risk

  • Majority of the 138 sewage leaks took place at Ministry of Defence buildings

More than 130 sewage leaks have been found in Government buildings over the past 12 months, new data has revealed.

Trade union leaders have warned of civil servants being put at risk due to the ‘disgraceful’ state of offices.

As well as the leakages, there have also been reports of Legionella bacteria being discovered in water supplies and bug infestations.

According to information obtained through written questions to ministers, the vast majority of the 138 sewage leaks took place at Ministry of Defence (MoD) buildings.

There were 102 incidents at MoD sites, including at Royal Naval airbase Culdrose, Cornwall, and RAF Henlow, Bedfordshire.

More than 130 sewage leaks have been found in Government buildings over the past 12 months, new data has revealed

The Liberal Democrats, who obtained the figures, compared the leak problems in Government buildings to sewage issues faced by users of Britain’s beaches

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, said the state of Government buildings was ‘a disgrace’

The Department for Work and Pensions recorded 25 minor leaks, which ministers said were ‘generally relating to individual toilets and blocked pipes’.

Four small-scale leaks occurred in buildings under the Cabinet Office’s stewardship, with two leaks in London and another two in York.

The Cabinet Office also manages the Prime Minister’s office, but said no leaks had occurred there in the last 12 months.

The Department for Education and Department for Transport reported sewage leaks, but several other departments – including the Department for Health and Social Care, and the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – recorded no sewage leaks in their estate over the past year.

Others including the Home Office and Ministry of Justice did not provide the information, as requested by the Liberal Democrats, citing costs.

According to The Times, Government buildings have also recently suffered from other issues.

It reported that Legionella bacteria was recently discovered at an HMRC building in Liverpool and dealt with, and several floors of Department for Energy Security and Net Zero in London were closed last month for deep cleaning after an insect infestation.

Last week, the first group of asylum seekers put on board the Bibby Stockholm barge in Dorset were disembarked following the discovery of Legionella in the vessel’s water supply.

One source told the newspaper: ‘When I saw what happened to those people on the barge I was aghast.

‘Fifteen people were marched straight off the boat  – rightly  – but you’ve got over 1,000 civil servants left in the building while you flush the system.’

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, which represents civil servants, said: ‘The state of Government buildings is a disgrace, outdone only by the way the Government treats the people who work inside them.

‘The situation in Liverpool is indefensible. The Government has finally accepted the danger to people on the Bibby Stockholm from legionella, yet refuses to act to protect its own staff.’

Asked by Sky News whether the sewage leaks meant Government buildings were unsafe for civil servants, health minister Neil O’Brien said: ‘It is safe for them to get back to work. We have very high standards.

‘I have worked in lots of different Government departments and the buildings are held to a high standard, but we do have a very cautious approach and that is why we monitor all these things.

‘We would never expect anyone to work in an unsafe environment. I work in the same environment and we all want the same things.’

A Government spokesperson said: ‘We manage a large, complex property estate which has over 140,000 buildings, many of which are of historical importance.

‘As it is always the case with managing any large property portfolio, issues do arise with maintenance.

‘That’s why we have invested £56million in improving and maintaining buildings, including fitting new and greener boilers and windows and making health and safety improvements.’

Lib Dem chief whip Wendy Chamberlain MP said: ‘Westminster has long been known for its many leaks, but these latest sewage revelations make for unpleasant reading.

‘This is another reminder of just how badly the Government has failed to tackle the sewage being pumped into our rivers, lakes and coastlines.

‘Water firms have repeatedly got away with polluting our treasured wildlife while sealing off beaches from the public.

‘Whether it’s a Government building or Blue Flag beach, I think it’s time ministers got a grip of sewage.’

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