Trust in tap water 'gone' after Brixham Cryptosporidium outbreak

Water station at Broadsands Car Park
Water station at Broadsands Car Park -Credit:Torbay Council

People have met with scepticism a decision by South West Water to lift a water notice in an area of Brixham as around 2,500 homes are still urged not to drink tap water unless it is boiled.

Despite South West Water confirming its water quality test results in one part Devon as clear, since the Cryptosporidium outbreak, some are not convinced the water is safe. The first area to come back as having clear water is part of Brixham, after the utility company said the water quality monitoring results confirmed there is now no cryptosporidium in its Alston supply area.

Homes in the Hillhead, upper parts of Brixham and Kingswear areas are still subject to a boil water notice with compensation being increased in those areas to £215 with payments being made automatically to direct debit customers or otherwise being applied as a credit on the next water bill.

It comes after South West Water issued a boil water notice to around 17,000 households and businesses in the Alston and Hillhead water supply areas, advising them not to use their tap water for drinking without boiling and cooling it first on May 15.

Members of the public posted on social media to say they need more reassurance, and they did not feel the water was safe to drink yet. Others said they felt the water company should not charge its customers for water usage for the month.

One Facebook user said: "I think the head of S.W. Water should be the first to test it." While another, just as sceptical, said: "Can the local MPs reassure us by drinking from the tap live on TV?"

Another Facebook user wrote: "After the heavy rain today across the country. The water companies will let raw sewage get into the system and the sea. They will lie and tell us otherwise, and demand we pay up for their incompetence."

One person wrote on Facebook saying: "they have tested it and also it’s been tested by a independent lab - if they say it’s safe then it’s safe you all act like this type of situation hasn’t happened before."

One person says it will take a while before people trust using tap water again. They said on Facebook: "No one is going to trust the tap water for a very long time. Another wrote: "I hope they don't charge anyone for the whole of May I bet they will greedy useless company."

Yesterday, David Harris, drought and resilience director at SWW, said: “The Hillhead reservoir has been successfully drained, thoroughly cleaned, and we will start refilling today.

“We will also start flushing the wider Hillhead network today, which is being continuously monitored as we work to eliminate any traces of cryptosporidium. We will not lift the boil water notice in Hillhead until we and our public health partners are completely satisfied it is safe to do so.

“I want to again apologise for the immense disruption this is causing. This should not have happened and I promise we will fix this problem as soon as possible.”

More than 200 South West Water staff and contractors are on the ground today to urgently resolve the situation.

South West Water stated to residents in Hillhead, upper parts of Brixham and Kingswear: "Our plans to remove the boil water notice are progressing well and as part of the clean up, we are flushing our pipes by pushing clean water through our network."