South West Water boss Susan Davy's regret over Brixham cryptosporidium outbreak

South West Water's chief executive, Susan Davy, has said she is 'truly sorry' for the cryptosporidium outbreak in Devon. It comes after the utility company issued a boil water notice to around 17,000 households and businesses in the Alston and Hillhead water supply areas of Brixham on Wednesday (May 15), advising them not to use their tap water for drinking without boiling and cooling it first.

This was the result of finding the parasite infection, cryptosporidium, in the Hillhead supply area. For the past few weeks, residents have reported feeling unwell with symptoms of stomach cramps, sickness, diarrhoea, fever and headaches.

Initially, they put it down to a bug or food poisoning but it was only when numbers began to increase so rapidly that speculation began mounting on social media about the cause. Up until Wednesday, South West Water (SWW) remained adamant its tests were clear and that the water was safe to drink.


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However, it then confirmed 'small traces' of the waterborne parasite were detected Alston and the Hillhead area of Brixham. The 'boil water' notice remained in place for thousands of homes for the rest of the week until Saturday (May 18) when SWW said water quality monitoring results confirmed there is now no cryptosporidium in its Alston supply area.

It advised that around 2,500 properties in the Hillhead, upper parts of Brixham and Kingswear areas are still subject to a boil water notice and are still required to boil and cool their tap water before consumption.

Ms Davy has now issued a statement on behalf of South West Water where she apologised to customers and residents who have been affected by the outbreak. In a video shared on X, formerly Twitter, she said she recognises how distressing the incident has been for everyone and said that the company is working hard to resolve the issue.

She said: "First of all, I want to apologise. You expect a clean, safe, and fresh supply of drinking water. It's not a lot to ask for. But for those in the Brixham area this week, we haven't been able to deliver that and for that, I'm truly sorry.

"I know how distressing this has been for the community and particularly for those who have fallen ill. Incidents like these are thankfully very rare but this shouldn't have happened.

"Our engineers and specialists are working on the ground to quickly identify and fix the issue. We are making good progress. Bottled water has been delivered to customers, businesses, schools, care homes and compensation payments for you have increased. But I know, that's just reacting to the problem, not solving it.

"We will not stop working until normal drinking water has been restored to everyone. All of us at South West Water live and work in the region, just like you. It is our home, it's my home and it's a place we all love. I am so sorry this has happened and thank you for your patience."

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Yesterday, SWW said it will only lift the remaining boil water notice when it is entirely satisfied it is safe to do so. It added that regular testing will continue throughout the network.

The decision to lift the boil water notice for households in Alston was made in consultation with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), Environmental Health Department and the Public Health Teams from torbay-council>Torbay Council and Devon County Council.

Dr Lincoln Sargeant, Torbay’s director of public health, said at the time: “Although we are confident that the source has been identified and appropriate actions are being taken, cryptosporidium can take up to two weeks after the initial exposure for the symptoms to show. As a result, some people may continue to develop symptoms from the original contamination event, or from person to person spread. Reported numbers of those affected may rise in the coming week even though we are lifting the boil water notice in some areas.

"It is important that those in these areas continue to avoid drinking tap water until advised otherwise. All residents need to maintain good hygiene measures and remain away from school and work for up to 48 hours after their last episode of diarrhoea. This will help us to reduce any onward person to person spread of the infection."