THE BACTERIA which causes Legionnaire's disease has been found in the water supply at a sheltered housing complex in Verwood.

Watchdog Public Health England said: "PHE is aware that Legionella bacteria has been found in following routine testing of the water supply at Meadow Court social housing in Verwood in Dorset. To date there have been no confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease in residents."

It has been claimed that residents at the block have been 'banned' from using their own toilets and had water supplies suspended as managers fight what they described as 'issues' with the water system.

Legionnaires' disease causes severe respiratory and other problems and can prove fatal if not treated.

Claire Lowther, who has a family member living in Meadow Court in Verwood, claimed residents were being asked by the Aster Group, which manges the complex, to use one of a reported 15 temporary loos on the site.

"Most people are housebound and yet they seem to want them to come downstairs to use these toilets although there's no way they can open the doors and there are no grab rails or risk assessment," she said.

She also claimed people had been told on Tuesday evening last week not to drink the water and had been offered 1.5 litre bottles of water although, she said, some residents had found them difficult to open. She said they had also been told not to use the showers.

Ms Lowther said she had attended a meeting at the Newtown Lane building attended by people from Aster on Thursday. "I understand they were considering a mass evacuation of the homes but because it's such a huge project I think they would rather hang fire at the moment although it won't be for three weeks if they know the latest treatment has worked," she claimed.

Meadow Court's website says it has 58 one and two bedroom flats with non-resident management staff.

In a statement Aster's regional director, Darren Brazil, said the company tested the water supply in all of its extra care and independent living schemes as part its on-going water management programme. He admitted the company had found bacteria and what he described as "a few isolated issues with water outlets at Meadow Court".

“To be able to treat the bacteria in these areas our specialist contractors use a chemical treatment which means that unfortunately, the water supply to the whole building needs to be turned off whilst this takes place," he explained.

“The health and safety of our customers is our absolute priority and whilst we understand that the water treatment is very disruptive, we do need to ensure that the bacteria found in those outlets is treated and removed," he added. “We are working closely with specialist water contractors and with East Dorset Environmental Health who are aware of our approach to date."

He denied rumours that Legionnaires disease had been discovered at Meadow Court.

“There are no cases of Legionnaires disease at Meadow Court," he said. "The risk to our customers remains very low but as a precaution we have provided residents with advice and guidance about using their water whilst the treatment continues and have encouraged customers to seek medical advice as they would normally do if they feel unwell.

“We are providing food, water and temporary toilet facilities on the days the treatment takes place, after which, with the exception of the shower, customers can use the water in their homes as usual. As a precaution we’ll be changing over all of the showerheads in our residents’ homes when this work is completed. In the interim we are able to offer our residents a temporary shower facility using special shower heads."

A spokesman for Dorset Council said it had been "in conversation" with Aster Housing. "They originally identified some issues with the water supply through their retinue testing and analysis and are using a competent contractor, Clearwater, to advise them and carry out remedial work in line with their risk assessment."