South West Water issues new statement on parasite outbreak

-Credit: (Image: Getty Images)
-Credit: (Image: Getty Images)

More than 600 households in Brixham are still having to boil their water nearly seven weeks after South West Water (SWW) confirmed that the cryptosporidium parasite had contaminated water supplies in the area. A boil water notice was first issued on May 15, which initially affected around 2,500 households.

Today (July 2), SWW has lifted the boil water notice for 731 properties in the Summercombe and Chesnut Drive areas of Brixham. This is in addition to the households Kingswear, Noss Marina, Hillhead Park and Raddicombe who were told last week that their tap water is now safe to drink.

But the notice remains in place for Higher Brixham, Southdown, Upton Manor and St Mary's as these properties are on a different part of the network. Bottled water is still being delivered to people living in these areas and can be picked up from collection points in Churston Car Boot Field, Broadsands Car Park and Freshwater Quarry Car Park.

An outbreak of cryptosporidium, which can cause watery diarrhoea, vomiting and fever, was first suspected when Brixham residents began reporting feeling unwell in mid-May. SWW initially said its tests for the parasite had come back clear and advised people to continue using their water as normal.

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Just days later, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) confirmed that there had been an outbreak and, on May 15, SWW said it had found "small traces" of the parasite in two areas of the town. The company later explained that the probable cause was a damaged air valve on private land.

On its website, SWW says that compensation for affected residents remains under review and that customers are being contacted directly. They say that compensations will be processed automatically.

David Harris, Incident Director at South West Water, said today: "We are today (July 2) lifting the boil water notice for 731 properties in the Summercombe and Chestnut Drive supply zone.

"Having lifted the boil water notice for properties in the Kingswear, Noss Marina, Hillhead Park and Raddicombe supply zones last week, our intensive work and monitoring has returned this part of the network to normal meaning the water in the Summercombe and Chestnut Drive supply zone now meets the high standards our customers expect.

"Our number one priority has always been the health and safety of our customers, businesses, and visitors to the region. We know this situation has been difficult for impacted people and we are sorry.

"As 678 properties in the Higher Brixham, Southdown, Upton Manor and St Mary's supply zone are on a different part of the network, the boil water notice will remain in place for them. We are still working in that area to return the water to normal and we will continue to keep our customers up to date with our progress.

"Since this event began, we have identified, removed and replaced the source of the contamination, a damaged air valve casing on private land.

"Our extensive programme of work has involved flushing over 34km of water pipes, ‘ice pigging’ and swabbing the network, and installing ultraviolet treatment and microfilters to provide barriers to remove cryptosporidium within our network. We have worked with specialists internally and externally to deliver interventions into our existing network safely, efficiently and often much quicker than would normally be expected.

"We have flushed our network 27 times and installed filters, while laying over 1.2km of new pipework. Alongside this work, our teams have surveyed our pipes using specialised cameras and conducted regular sampling to be confident that the water supply has been restored to the high standards and to reassure customers that their water is safe when we lift the notices.

"Sample results have shown that ice pigging is highly effective in removing cryptosporidium from our network, allowing us to return the supply to normal once the work is complete and the network has settled. UV treatment and specialist microfilters then provide protective barriers to ensure that when we lift boil water notices, customers can be absolutely confident that the water is safe to drink.

"This is what our customers expect and what they deserve, and testing by both independent experts and our own scientists confirm that our efforts have worked.

"Throughout this incident and while working with the UK Health Security Agency, the regulator and other public health authorities, we have also sought the best advice from experts and scientists from across the world, as well as many UK-based experts to learn from their experiences.

"Today’s decision to lift the boil water notices for these properties 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.

"While we cannot and will not underestimate the impact this has had on people, we are pleased to have now removed 15,368 people from boil water notices.

"We will continue to work around the clock to complete our ongoing work to ensure the water is safe to drink for the remaining customers on boil water notices. During this time we will continue to deliver bottled water direct to our customers, and through our three bottled water collection points. So far, we have given customers over 1.4 million bottles of water.

"We are sorry for every customer who has been impacted by this incident and we thank them for their patience. We won’t stop until everyone has a clean and safe supply of drinking water, and we are confident we will be able to announce the further phases of lifting soon."