Cumbria water firm United Utilities' communication criticised

Thirlmere reservoir Image copyright United Utilities
Image caption The new pipeline will take water from Thirlmere reservoir

A water company under fire after a change in supplies has been told to improve customer communications.

Elected mayor of Copeland Mike Starkie said United Utilities' (UU) "lack of communication" had "caused great concern" in West Cumbria.

Some residents complained of rashes, mouth ulcers and upset stomachs after drinking the water.

UU has apologised for its lack of communication but said "numerous" safety tests had been carried out.

Water and scientific services director Martin Padley said change in supply "can cause understandable concern".

"I can reassure everyone that our regular analysis and monitoring of the water supply shows that even though it's different it still meets the same high quality standards," he said.

Mr Starkie said he was "disappointed that United Utilities did not consult or inform residents about the change", which would have avoided "some distress".

Image copyright United Utilities
Image caption The water company will stop taking supplies from Ennerdale, which is a protected wildlife habitat

The company said it has been running drop-in sessions for residents to explain the plans for the water supply and its effects.

The Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) has tested samples provided by UU and says the water is safe to drink.

The introduction of harder water containing more minerals explained some changes noticed by customers, such as it making a "popping" noise when boiled, it said.

UU is in the process of stopping supplies from Ennerdale Water in the Lake District to protect rare freshwater mussels and is currently supplementing supplies with harder water from boreholes near Egremont.

Eventually a new 62-mile (100km) pipeline being built from Thirlmere Reservoir will provide water to about 150,000 people.

Abstracting water from Ennerdale will cease once the new £300m pipeline is complete in 2022.

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