South West Water finally lifts Brixham Boil Water Notice

South West Water has finally lifted its Boil Water Notice for the remaining affected areas of Brixham
-Credit: (Image: Getty Images)

South West Water has finally lifted a formal Boil Water Notice in Brixham two months after warning households to boil their tap water amid fears of a parasite outbreak.

In a statement, the company announced it has carried out "enhanced sampling and monitoring" over the past eight weeks in order to return tap water to a safe state to use.

It comes after traces of the parasite cryptosporidium were first detected in water supplies in the Brixham area as far back as May 15, as a number of people fell ill with symptoms of stomach cramps, sickness, diarrhoea, fever and headaches.

The situation then escalated with around 16,000 properties initially told not to consume water due to suspected cryptosporidium in the water supply.

But today (July 8), South West Water has issued the following statement: "Today we are pleased to be able to lift the Boil Water Notice for all remaining customers in the Brixham area impacted by cryptosporidium.

"The Notice has now been lifted for customers in the Higher Brixham, Southdown, Upton Manor and St Mary's supply zones, and it is now safe to drink your tap water as normal.

"The decision was made in line with the principles agreed with public health partners, including the UK Health Security Agency and the local authority's Environmental Health department."

The statement went on: "Following eight weeks of intensive interventions, enhanced sampling and monitoring together with working alongside public health partners - the full network in the Brixham area has now returned to normal and all customers, business and visitors can drink their tap water, safely.

"Nothing has mattered more to us than the health and safety of our customers and we are pleased we can now reassure you that your water supply meets the high standards you rightly expect.

Traces of the parasite cryptosporidium were detected in the water supply in the area
Traces of the parasite cryptosporidium were detected in the water supply in the area -Credit:SWNS

"Sample results have shown that the completed work including flushing and ice pigging has been highly effective in removing cryptosporidium from the network.

"A triple layer of protection is now in place including microfilters and UV at our tank and in-line microfiltration in your supply zone providing additional barriers. So you can be confident that the water is safe to drink."

The company concluded that it will be closing its bottled water stations, saying: "We want to let you know that now you can use your water as normal, we will be closing the bottled water stations from 9pm this evening (Monday 8 July).

"Water deliveries will also stop in the final area to be lifted from the Boil Water Notice today - we will, though, continue to deliver water to customers on our Priority Services Register today and tomorrow.

"We are sorry for the disruption the Boil Water Notice has brought. We are especially sorry for the distress caused to those who fell ill because of cryptosporidium and to the ones who had to care for them. We would like to thank all our customers, visitors and businesses for your patience and understanding throughout the incident."

While the news should be a relief to those living in the area, many residents admit they have "lost trust in their tap water", and still fear the parasite.

Some have said they need further "reassurance", and are calling for an independent advisor to visit their homes and test the water.

One local said: "The tests that have been showing cryptosporidium in our water have suddenly disappeared. Now SWW have lifted the boil water notice. We need an independent to come and test our water at our homes. Maybe one home on every street that's been declared safe to drink.

"After all the lies we've been subjected to, we need this. Some of us have serious health issues that will be greatly affected by getting ill again. We need some reassurance here."

Another added: "We've been lied to considerably and you can't just switch trust back on. I don't think anybody believes the water is suddenly fit to drink especially when the latest graph shows a rise in cryptosporidium."

Bottled water stations will be closing from 9pm tonight (July 8)
Bottled water stations will be closing from 9pm tonight (July 8) -Credit:SWNS

And a third echoed these sentiments, saying "Many of us have fundamentally lost trust in our tap water; something that maybe we shouldn’t take for granted, but we always have been able to in the UK.

"The latest posts from SWW have done the very opposite to winning that trust back. SWW’s repeated statement that our health remains their top priority has started to ring very hollow now."

The restrictions were imposed in May and Tanya Matthews was one of the residents first affected by the incident. She had previously blasted South West Water for not working faster to resolve the issue.

"I was trying to tell people: don't drink it, it's not safe," she said. "But people responded by saying that South West Water have said it's fine, so we're going to carry on drinking it."

"On Wednesday morning, they found out that there was cryptosporidium - but didn't inform the public until that afternoon.

"I don't know why they didn't, as a precaution, on the Monday or the Tuesday put a boil water notice on until they found out whether it was the water or not. I had severe diarrhoea, nausea all the time, horrendous stomach cramps and I felt lightheaded."

According to South West Water, the remaining 674 affected properties in Higher Brixham, Southdown, Upton Manor and St Mary's are now all safe.

David Harris, South West Water's Incident Director, said: "The last two months have had a significant impact on the people and businesses of Brixham and for that we are truly sorry.

"Nothing matters more than the health and safety of our customers and we are pleased we can now reassure everyone that their water supply meets the high standards they rightly expect."

Some locals say they have "lost trust in their tap water" - and want independent advisors to come to their homes and test their water
Some locals say they have "lost trust in their tap water" - and want independent advisors to come to their homes and test their water -Credit:SWNS

The firm said that more than 1,000 South West Water network technicians, engineers, water quality scientists and contractors have worked day and night to fix the issue and return the water supply to normal.

The source of the contamination - a damaged air valve casing on private land - was identified, removed and replaced, and an extensive programme of work was undertaken to clear the network of cryptosporidium.

This work involved:

- Flushing over 34km of water pipes 27 times at high velocity to clean network pipes and remove cryptosporidium

- 17 phases of ice-pigging and swabbing the network – a more aggressive cleaning approach that we have carried out on all the pipes between our tanks and customer offtakes in their street

- Installing ultraviolet (UV) solutions and microfilters to provide barriers to remove cryptosporidium within the network. Now, for all of our customers in the Hillhead and Boohay network, their water supply will pass through at least two of these safety measures if not three before reaching their premises

- Laying over 1.2km of new pipework to provide future resilience across the network

- Working with specialists internally and externally to deliver interventions into the existing network safely, efficiently and far quicker than would normally be expected

In total, the company has given out over a million bottles of water from its three bottled water collection stations and hand delivered 390,123 bottles of water directly to customer homes. With all customers now reportedly able to drink their water as normal, the bottled water stations and home deliveries will now stop.