A PRIMARY school has been boycotted by terrified parents amid fears of an E-coli outbreak.
The playground of Lawfield Primary School in Midlothian was flooded with contaminated water from a neighbouring farm field.
The local council admitted “a wide range of bacteria” was present and warned parents of a potential risk by text message.
They also cordoned off the affected area and are insisting all pupils wash their hands with antibacterial gel.
Despite the measures, it is understood that as many as 30 children have been taken out of the school.
Parents say they will not return to the school, which has 230 pupils, until the presence of potentially deadly E-coli bacteria is ruled out.
Mark Wilkinson, 38, who has two sons at the Edinburgh school, was especially concerned as his wife contracted the bacteria while being treated for kidney stones at a city hospital.
The dad-of-three said: “They’re not going back until I know for a fact there’s no E-coli.
“My wife nearly died of E-coli a couple of years ago so I know how easy it is to catch it – it’s a silent killer.
“There is water running into the playground off a farmer’s field which the school believes may be contaminated with E-coli.
“If the council is testing the water why is the school still open?”
Another father, who wished to remain anonymous, said he received a text from the school around 8.30am advising children to bring a second set of footwear, but by that time it was too late.
He said: “I took the girls to school and a nursery teacher said there had been an outbreak of E-coli in the playground – I was shocked.
“When I went to pick my daughter up from nursery at 11.45am about 30 parents were there taking their kids out of school.
“I decided to take my oldest daughter out of school too – I won’t send them back until the council gives the all-clear.”
E-coli is the short name for Escherichia coli and is a bacteria that normally lives inside a person’s intestines, where it helps digest food.
Certain strains of E-coli can get from the intestines into the blood and cause serious infection with around 200 cases reported every year.
This can lead to bad stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhea – in some strains it can even lead to death.
Micro-biology expert Professor Hugh Pennington said there is chance that the bacteria found in Lawfield Primary is harmless.
He said: “Hearing the words ‘E-coli’ causes alarm but the name covers a big family of microbes – the nasty one is called 0157 – it causes gastroenteritis and kidney failure.
“Children aged five and less and the elderly are most at risk.
“It sounds as though the contamination at Lawfield Primary has been caused by water containing harmless E-coli varieties – almost certainly the risks are no greater than walking over a field where cattle or sheep have been grazing.
“Hand-washing with soap and water works well and is by far the most preventive measure.”
Councillor Lisa Beattie, Midlothian’s cabinet member for education, said areas of the school have now been cordoned off.
She said: “We’ve put barriers up to cordon off a games area and also grass verges just to be safe.
“Extra hygiene measures are also in place such as rigorous hand-washing and children have been asked to bring indoor shoes.
“The school was shut to pupils last week so there’s no suggestion children were playing in that part of the playground.”
A Midlothian Council spokeswoman did not deny that E-coli was present and confirmed that the water found in the playground was “over flow water from a neighbouring field”.
They also said the surface water that sparked the panic has drained away but more tests still need to be carried out.
A spokeswoman said: “The initial sample did not identify specific strains of bacteria, therefore further tests are required.
“In the meantime, environmental health officers are asking for a meeting, as soon as possible, with the owner of the field to find out more about how the land is farmed.
“A long term solution will also need to be sought for the overflow problem.”
Councillor Lisa Beattie, cabinet member for education, said: “The school remains open. We’re continuing to follow all the correct procedures as advised by NHS public health and environmental health.
“The risk to children and staff is low but we don’t want to take any chances, so we’ve put barriers up to cordon off a games area in the school and also grass verges.”
The council also assured parents that there is nothing wrong with the school’s own water supply and that it was just the surface water that was contaminated.
Cllr Beattie added: “We understand parents are obviously worried when they hear that water coming into part of a playground has bacteria in it.
“However, I want to reassure everyone that we’re confident we are doing all we should be to keep children and staff safe and we are asking parents to send their children to school as normal.”
Midlothian Council also confirmed there are no plans to power-wash or clean the playground as a precaution as they said it “wouldn’t be beneficial”.