Brixham: Contamination 'shouldn't have happened', South West Water boss says - as thousands allowed to drink from taps again

South West Water's chief executive has said she is "truly sorry" for failing to deliver "clean, safe and fresh" water to Brixham residents, admitting the parasite contamination "shouldn't have happened".

Susan Davy said cases of water contamination like the one which has been affecting the coastal town in Devon this week "are thankfully very rare".

In a video posted on X by South West Water, she said bottled water continued to be distributed to people while compensation payments had also been increased.

"We will not stop working until normal drinking water has been restored to everyone," she said, adding engineers and specialists were making "good progress".

She added: "It is our home, it's my home and it's a place we all love. I am so sorry this has happened and thank you for your patience."

Thousands of homes had their boiling water restrictions lifted after a water tank infected with cryptosporidium was drained and cleaned, South West Water said earlier on Saturday.

About 17,000 households in the Brixham area were told to boil their drinking water following 46 confirmed cases of the disease.

On Saturday afternoon, South West Water lifted the boiling restrictions for 14,500 homes after water quality monitoring results found no traces of cryptosporidium in the Alston supply area.

However the water company said some 2,500 properties in Hillhead, upper parts of Brixham and Kingswear should continue to boil their supply before drinking it.

Cryptosporidiosis is caused by a tiny parasite and can lead to vomiting, stomach cramps and watery diarrhoea lasting about two weeks.

More cases are expected to be confirmed due to a delay in developing symptoms - and about 100 more people around Brixham were reporting signs of it on Friday.

South West Water believes the parasite probably entered supplies through a damaged pipe in a field containing animal faeces.

A contaminated water tank at Hillhead reservoir, where cryptosporidium was detected, was drained overnight and "thoroughly cleaned" on Saturday, South West Water said.

One local resident said she knew of only four houses out of 21 in Raddicombe Close, on the outskirts of Brixham, which have not had at least one person fall ill with cryptosporidiosis.

The local MP has warned "heads are going to roll" over the incident.

Tory MP Anthony Mangnall, whose constituency includes Brixham, told LBC: "This is such a serious matter that yes, I think heads are going to roll over this."

He claimed the supplier had been too slow to issue its safety alert.

Mr Mangnall said: "From starting this week with a denial from South West Water that it was anything to do with them, delaying the fact that the boil water notice came in - meaning thousands of people used the water network - to then issuing it on Wednesday, and there are a lot of people who are very ill."

He called it an "absolutely disastrous week" and said locals were furious.

South West Water has said it's "deeply sorry" and that it's been "working tirelessly" to identify the source of the problem and fix it.

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Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey accused the government of not doing enough to hold water companies to account.

He told Sky News the firms were "putting profit over the environment, over public health" after multiple cases of sewage being released into rivers and seas.

"We [Liberal Democrats] wouldn't wait for fines for pollution," Sir Ed said.

"There should be a sewage tax on the profits of these water companies so we can get the money now.

"There needs to be much tougher regulation... and we may need to look at restructuring the whole water industry."

It comes as dozens of protests over sewage releases were planned for Saturday.

Surfers Against Sewage is promoting "paddle-out" demonstrations at 30 locations, with Olympian Dame Kelly Holmes among those at the event in Brighton.