Water company wrongly told households they could stop boiling water after parasite outbreak

South West Water staff and volunteers distribute water to the public at a water collection point in Brixham, England
South West Water apologised for the error, which it blamed on an issue with its digital mapping system - Hugh Hastings

A water company wrongly told households they could stop boiling their water amid a parasite outbreak.

South West Water (SWW) lifted a “boil water” notice for 14,500 properties in Brixham, Devon, on Saturday after it was put in place following an outbreak of cryptosporidiosis, an illness linked to diarrhoea.

However, 30 households received another message from the company hours later advising them to keep boiling their water, the BBC reported.

SWW has apologised for the error, which it blamed on an issue with its digital mapping system.

It said it would offer an extra £75 compensation to people who have been given incorrect advice.

Cryptosporidium is a protozoan, microscopic parasite, the causative agent of the diarrheal disease
An outbreak of cryptosporidiosis is taking place in Brixham which is an illness linked to diarrhoea - Dr_Microbe

About 17,000 households have been affected by the boil water notice after traces of the parasite were discovered in the company’s water network on Wednesday.

It is still advising about 2,500 properties in Hillhead, upper parts of Brixham and Kingswear to continue to boil their drinking water.

SWW said on Sunday it would not lift the “boil water” notice in place for these homes “until we and our public health partners are completely satisfied it is safe to do so”.

Confirmed cases of cryptosporidiosis, caused by a microscopic parasite, rose to 46 on Friday in the Brixham area, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

More than 100 more people have reported symptoms, including diarrhoea and vomiting, and it is believed there may be many more cases.

Anthony Mangnall, the Conservative MP for Totnes and South Devon, told LBC News on Saturday: “This is such a serious matter that yes, I think heads are going to roll over this, but it’s more important to get the system back up and running, make sure people have confidence in the network rather than pointing fingers.

“We do the investigation afterwards and we will make sure that those who are responsible are held to account.”

A spokesperson for SWW told the Telegraph: “Following our announcement yesterday that we were reducing the boil water notice area in Brixham, we hand-delivered notices to all customers to let them know of the changes and to confirm whether or not they were still in the affected area.

“Unfortunately, a very small number of customers did receive two notices with conflicting information.

“This was caused due to a technical issue with our digital mapping system.

“We also had a small number of customers in a localised area who, in error, received the wrong notice advising them that their property was no longer covered by the notice.

“We have been contacting those customers and carrying out visits to their properties to quickly clarify their situation and provide the correct guidance.

“We are sorry about this, and those customers will be receiving an additional £75 in compensation in recognition of the confusion caused.”