'Boil water' notice mostly lifted in Devon

Water bottles being delivered to a car
There are 46 cases of cryptosporidium linked to the current outbreak [PA Media]

Thousands of people who were having to boil their water in Devon due to a parasite outbreak are being told they no longer have to.

South West Water (SWW) said it was no longer advising 14,500 households in Brixham to boil their water before drinking it.

The company said 17,000 households and businesses had been affected by the boil water notice after traces of cryptosporidium, a parasite that causes diarrhoea, was identified in its 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.

Hillhead reservoir
Hillhead reservoir is being investigated as the source of contamination [PA Media]

Health officials have said there are 46 confirmed cases of cryptosporidiosis linked to the outbreak, with more than 100 other people reporting symptoms.

Conservative MP Anthony Mangnall, whose Totnes constituency covers Brixham, welcomed restrictions being lifted, but said the situation had been "totally unacceptable".

“I share the anger of the residents of Brixham and the surrounding area, and we need clear answers as to why this has happened and what has caused it," he added

Laura Flowerdew, SWW's chief customer officer, apologised for what happened.

"This situation has caused an immense amount of disruption, distress and anxiety," she said.

"We are truly sorry this has happened."

Michaela Lewis
Michaela Lewis said she was "very angry" with South West Water's response [BBC]

Mother-of-two Michaela Lewis said she no longer had confidence in the quality of the water supply.

She said her five-year-old daughter had been unwell for about two weeks.

"I'm very angry," she said.

"I understand these things happen, the response is what's really angered me.

"It's just not good enough... to say they water was safe when they didn't have adequate evidence to back that up."

'Incredibly distressing'

Ms Lewis said she had been unknowingly giving her children contaminated water for at least a week after they started showing symptoms.

She said she knew there was a wider problem when other people started falling ill.

"Even when South West Water said it was safe we went on bottled water because we knew it wasn't," she said.

"That many people unwell in a small area with a waterborne parasite, it's clearly the water."

Ms Flowerdew said in response: "As a mother myself, I find that incredibly distressing and I can only apologise."

Pallets of bottled water in front of a South West Water lorry that says "top quality water"
South West Water is increasing the compensation offered to the remaining affected residents to £215 [PA Media]

The water company said it was increasing the compensation offered to the remaining affected residents by £100, bringing the total they will receive to £215.

SWW said a damaged valve on private land in the Hillhead supply area was identified as the "possible cause of contamination".

It said the area had "since been isolated from the network and repaired".

The water company said people who are unsure if they remain in the area affected by the parasite should visit its postcode checker or call them.

Ms Flowerdew could not say when the boil water notice would be lifted for the remaining 2,500 properties.

"We are expecting that work to continue over the weekend and into next week," she said.

"Public health is absolutely critical... so we are looking to ensure we have done everything we need to before we lift the notice.

"We are expecting this to extend a number of days."

Water bottles being delivered to a car
The boil water notice is expected to remain for 2,500 properties for "a number of days" [PA Media]

The water company on Tuesday said tap water in the town was safe to drink, but U-turned less than 24 hours later and advised residents to start boiling their water.

Residents have expressed anger at SWW's communication since the start of the parasite outbreak.

Asked about the U-turn, Ms Flowerdew said: "All the decisions we have made have all been evidence-based.

"When we issued the notice on Tuesday, we had no indication the water supply had signs of the cryptosporidium in it.

"As soon as we got information that provided sound evidence - we put a notice in place."

Ms Flowerdew said the firm would be looking for "evidence" supporting the water was safe to drink before the boil notice was fully lifted.

“The important thing now is to look in the Hillhead area and make sure we have absolutely confirmed the source of the issue and to fix that issue," she said.

"Public health is of paramount importance."

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