Where is tap water contaminated in UK? School closes as hundreds made ill

Close up of a woman's hand filling a glass of water right from the tap in the kitchen sink at home
A school in Brixham, Devon, has been forced to close as hundreds are struck down by a contaminated tap water illness -Credit:Yiu Yu Hoi

A nasty diarrhoea bug outbreak, caused by contaminated tap water, has led to the closure of a school across several UK towns. Residents in Brixham, Boohay, Kingswear, Roseland and North East Paignton in Devon have been advised not to drink directly from the tap after a parasite was found in the water supply.

The cryptosporidium bug has affected people throughout the area, prompting authorities to instruct residents to boil their water before consumption, reports the Mirror.

The unpleasant bug can cause watery diarrhoea, stomach cramps, nausea, and in some instances, fever and loss of appetite. A primary school in one of the affected villages has had to close until the issue is resolved.

Eden Park Primary and Nursery informed parents that it cannot operate while drinking water remains unsafe. In a letter to parents, the school expressed hope to reopen on Friday, "pending deliveries and the situation".

Speaking to DevonLive, one woman described the symptoms of the bug as the worst she's ever experienced. Tanya Matthews said: "I started having stomach cramps and explosive diarrhoea nine days ago and it has been the same every day since. I started to feel a little bit better yesterday then today [May 14] it hit me again."

Cryptosporidium is a parasite that attaches itself to human intestines and can lead to gastrointestinal and respiratory illnesses. Infections typically occur when people consume contaminated water at home or in swimming pools.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has announced it is collaborating with local councils to delve into the recent outbreak. Meanwhile, South West Water (SWW) has confirmed that their water quality tests in Brixham have all returned clear results so far.

In a statement, South West Water said: "We are working with public health partners to urgently investigate the source. We apologise for the inconvenience caused and will continue to keep customers and businesses updated."

In response to the situation, emergency bottled water stations have been established for residents.

Further, the water provider stated: "Customers in Alston and the Hillhead area of Brixham are advised to boil their drinking water before consuming following new test results for cryptosporidium. We are issuing this as a precaution following small traces of the organism identified overnight and this morning. We are working with public health partners to urgently investigate the source."

South West Water also assured: "For those customers registered for Priority Services we will be delivering bottled water to your address. For all customers who have been issued with the Boil Water Notice you will receive an automatic payment of £15, as part of our Customer Promise when services are interrupted."