Cambridge water supply contaminated by fuel in soil

Red notice telling people not to use their water until further notice
Residents complained of a "diesel-like smell in the water" within 24 hours of the new water mains being activated

A water company has said its water supply was contaminated by fuel.

Independent Water Networks (IWN) investigated after homes were left without water on the Marleigh Development in Fen Ditton, Cambridge.

Charlie Thackeray, from IWN, wrote in a letter to residents that a "diesel-like smell in the water" was reported 24 hours after connecting the new mains.

He noted the contamination was inside healthy limits but was eliminated with a flushing programme.

Mr Thackeray added: "To ensure the ongoing safety of our customers, we have arranged to replace all the mains laid in the area under construction with barrier pipe, which is designed to be used in such circumstances and will ensure the water supplied will meet all water quality requirements."

Water bottles in a community centre
A local community centre was used to store the bottled water being handed out to residents

According to the water network director new legs had been added to the Marleigh water main supply on 17 January.

After receiving reports of a "diesel-like smell in the water", the company disconnected the newly added water mains, issued a "do not use" order to residents and begun taking water samples for laboratory analysis.

IWN previously said about 320 homes were affected and bottled water was handed out for everything other than flushing toilets.

With the new section disconnected the company flushed and retested the water daily until results indicated the water was completely safe.

Two people pulling a cart loaded with bottles of water
IWN delivered bottled water to affected residents after issuing a "do not use" order

In his letter Mr Thackeray said the developer joined them in testing soils where the water main was laid within the Marleigh estate construction area.

He explained that about 150 separate tests were conducted and "some small areas of fuel contamination were found in six locations".

He said: "It is not possible for us to be certain where the contamination came from.

"Possibilities include from plant or vehicle refuelling spills or possibly from contaminated imported backfill materials."

The director said that despite the company following normal procedures, with disinfecting and flushing, it seemed "some contamination entered the system".

He said: "Our tests prior to the flushing programme indicated contamination was present at levels inside healthy limits, however the flushing eliminated the contamination completely."

Mr Thackeray apologised to residents for any inconvenience caused by the incident.


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