Lawyers working at Lincoln’s Inn have been warned not to return to work following the discovery of the legionella bacterium.

Traces of the bacteria, which can cause deadly legionnaire’s disease, were discovered on the estate, which houses firms such as Payne Hicks Beach and Edwin Coe, as well as leading Chancery sets.

Tenants were informed of the discovery this week, with the inn setting out a programme of remedial works, including chlorination of the water system, while existing water supplies to tenants have been halted, with temporary showers and portaloos being installed. No cases of the disease have been reported so far.

Although the estate has been closed since the Covid-19 lockdown began, offices were expected to re-open again from 15 June. The inn was undergoing routine maintenance by contractors Ingleton Wood as part of planned refurbishment. 

One source told the Gazette: 'Lincoln’s Inn is carrying out water repairs in all chambers, and most sets have had water supply paused, but it might be that we can’t get back into our building safely until later on.' Another source said that the inn had informed tenants that the works could last to the beginning of July, with residents had been advised not to use existing water supplies.

Ann Sharp, under treasurer at Lincoln’s Inn, told the Gazette: 'We have a routine water quality testing regime in place at the inn and had alerted tenants and residents to the increased risk as a result of reduced occupation of buildings.'

She added: 'We were about to start a precautionary site-wide water treatment programme when routine testing identified two positive samples. We wrote again to tenants and residents and accelerated the treatment programme in the light of this, bringing in additional resources. We provided alternative washing and toilet facilities and free bottled water. We also offered to provide alternative accommodation to residents.’

She noted that many tenants and landlords across the country will face the problem. 

A specialist health & safety solicitor, Stuart Armstrong of SV Armstrong Ltd, told the Gazette that routine independent testing for legionella was entirely appropriate, to protect staff and the general public – including law firms.