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Inspectors Warn that 1870's-era Brit Aquarium Risks 'Catastrophic Failure'; Equipment 'Old, Salt-caked and Rusty'

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LANCASHIRE, U.K. -- Zoo Licensing Inspectors said the tank and others at the Victorian attraction must be "regarded as suspect in terms of structural integrity."

And in a chilling warning to Aquarium owners Leisure Parcs, the inspectors warned: "The Local Authority and management should take urgent steps to ascertain whether or not there is a significant risk of catastrophic failure.

"Clearly, any such failure would represent a major safety risk for the public and staff." The inspection was carried out as part of the popular attraction's application to renew its zoo licence.

Opened in 1875, The Aquarium pre-dates the Tower by almost 20 years and attracts thousands of visitors each year.

However, inspectors found a series of flaws it says must be addressed.

The report said: "The 32,000-gallon centrepiece tank is part of a series of tanks that must be regarded as suspect in terms of structural integrity.

"There were no engineer's reports available in terms of stress analysis in tanks and an estimate of their maximum safe service life.

"Nevertheless, even casual observations on concrete supports indicated there was 'rust burst' undermining the integrity of the concrete."

These, the inspectors said, had caused a twisting of the glass in some adjacent tanks. Leaks and cracks were seen while many items of equipment were "old, salt-caked and rusty".

There are currently around 60 species of fish kept in both fresh and salt-water tanks at the aquarium.

Despite the deficiencies uncovered, inspectors agreed to reissue the operating licence pending more detail and examination being carried out.

The inspectors concluded: "There is a large question mark over the purpose, value, working arrangements, and general safety of this establishment.

"To give the operators adequate time to respond to current substantial concerns, it is proposed a licence be reissued pending a full renewal inspection in March 2007.

"In the interim, the operators need to pay close attention to remedying any critical issues, in terms of public and employee health and safety."

Leisure Parcs were today unavailable for comment.

The matter will be discussed by Blackpool Council's Public Protection sub committee on Thursday.

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