Water firm criticised for 'putting public health at risk'

Franklaw water treatment works in Preston
Image caption Traces of cryptosporidium were found at Franklaw water treatment works near Preston

A water company has been accused of putting public health at risk following incidents including a parasite outbreak, a report found.

The Chief Inspector of Drinking Water criticised United Utilities for "unacceptable failures" in a report citing nine incidents.

The report found water supplies were not properly disinfected.

United Utilities said it had taken remedial action at treatment works and it had paid out compensation.

The Chief Inspector, Marcus Rink, found "nine events relating to improperly disinfected water during the year" and the "overarching failure was that the risk assessment and subsequent mitigation planning was not evident".

"The company did not address the risks satisfactorily with the consequence that public health was put at risk when the systems failed," his report said.

"During the year, as the events were reported, there was clear indication that the company were not learning from previous errors."

The failures, his report added, were "wholly unacceptable".

Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption Cryptosporidium can cause diarrhoea and abdominal cramps

Microscopic bug

In July 2015, a fault at the Sweetloves water treatment works at Bolton meant almost 80,000 homes in the area had to boil their water for three days.

Franklaw water treatment plant near Preston was affected by cryptosporidium in August 2015, with up to 300,000 households in Blackpool, Chorley, Fylde, Preston, South Ribble and Wyre unable to drink tap water for more than three weeks after the find.

Cryptosporidium, a microscopic bug that can cause diarrhoea and cramps, was found during routine tests by the utility firm and resulted in households being told to boil drinking water.

A permanent ultraviolet light rig was fitted at the Franklaw water treatment works, United Utilities announced in December 2015.

A United Utilities spokesman said: "We paid compensation at the time and apologised to our customers for the inconvenience caused.

"Remedial action has either already been taken at the treatment works or is being planned and procedures and policies have changed to minimise the risk of any future incident."

He added that overall the drinking water quality in the north "continues to meet 99.6% of regulatory standards".

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