Boiling Water in Brixham

According to South West Water’s “Service Updates” web page this afternoon:

Boil water notice – Alston and the Hillhead area of Brixham

We have set up a bottled water collection point at Broadsands Car Park TQ4 6HX which will be ready by 7pm. It will be open until 10pm tonight and tomorrow (16/05/2024) from 6am – 9pm. In the meantime, we are delivering bottled water to vulnerable customers.

Please do not drink your tap water without first boiling it and allowing it to cool. This applies to water used for drinking, cooking, preparing food or brushing teeth. Boiled water can be stored in a covered container in the fridge for up to 24 hours. You may use the tap water for washing, bathing and toilet flushing.

Customers in Alston and the Hillhead area of Brixham are advised to boil their drinking water before consuming following new test results for cryptosporidium. We are issuing this notice following small traces of the organism identified overnight and this morning. We are working with the UK Health Security Agency and other public health partners to urgently investigate and eliminate the source. 
  
We apologise for the inconvenience caused and will continue to keep customers and businesses updated.

SWW include this map of the affected area in their announcement:

The service update also provides this background information:

  • The data from our tests over the last several weeks showed that the treated water leaving our treatment works was not contaminated. However, in the Hillhead section of our network further tests taken overnight and working with the advice of UK Health Security Agency we have found small traces of cryptosporidium and are therefore issuing the boil water notice.
  • Cryptosporidium can cause sickness and diarrhoea if consumed – drinking water can become contaminated due to various reasons but we are fully investigating the cause.
  • We ask that customers informed of the notice do not drink tap water without first boiling it and allowing it to cool.
  • This should also be done for preparing or cooking food or cleaning teeth. Boiled water can be stored in a covered container in the fridge for 24 hours.
  • Water can continue to be used as normal for washing, bathing and toilet flushing.
  • If people have consumed the water and feel unwell, they should follow the advice on UKHSA’s website here: www.gov.uk/guidance/cryptosporidium-public-advice
  • Boil water notices will be hand delivered to affected customers and the postcodes impacted by the notice are listed on our website. 

Torbay Council issued a press release, stating that:

South West Water (SWW) has confirmed that low levels of Cryptosporidium has been found in the local supply of water in and around Brixham.

The water company is advising residents in Brixham, Churston, Galmpton, Broadsands, Hookhills and White Rock areas to boil drinking water until further notice.

SWW will be hand delivering notices to all the properties affected. Text messages have also been sent.

You can check properties that have been affected by looking at the map on the SWW website. 

SWW are issuing this as a precaution following small traces of the organism identified overnight and this morning. 

Bottled water stations are being set up in the affected areas as soon as possible.

For those customers registered for Priority Services, SWW will be delivering bottled water direct to them. 

We will continue to work with SWW and the UK Health Security Agency on this and will provide further updates when we get them.

Dr Lincoln Sargeant, Torbay’s Director of Public Health, said: ““We’re working with SWW and the UK Health Security Agency, NHS Devon and the Environment Agency to investigate 22 confirmed cases of cryptosporidium.

“There are further cases of diarrhoea and vomiting in residents and visitors to Brixham under investigation and more confirmed cases are expected.

“I would advise people to wash their hands thoroughly when handling food and after using the toilet, to help prevent the spread of further infection.

“Please follow the advice to stay away from nursery, school and work for 48 hours since the last episode of illness and do not swim for two weeks after being unwell.

“Anyone with a diarrhoeal illness should drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration and if they have severe symptoms like bloody diarrhoea, they should contact NHS 111 or their GP surgery.”

P.S. This evening Torbay MP Kevin Foster posted on X (formerly Twitter):

Brixham MP Anthony Mangnall suggested that:

[Update – May 16th]

According to the BBC this morning:

An outbreak of a diarrhoea-type illness is expected to last for “at least” a week in south Devon, with people told to boil their tap water until further notice.

Public Health said 22 cases of cryptosporidiosis had been confirmed in Brixham and up to 100 people had reported symptoms to their GP in the last week.

Infections from the parasite cryptosporidium can be caused by drinking contaminated water or swallowing it in swimming pools or streams.

A Brixham primary school has closed as it said running a school without drinking water was “not possible”…

Prof Paul Hunter, a specialist in microbiology and infectious disease, said cases would continue to climb even after the source was found.

He said: “It’s difficult to know how big these outbreaks turn out to be and it depends on whether the contamination event is a very short lived thing.

“The difficulty here is that cryptosporidium can take up to about 10 days before you become ill, so even if they stop the infection today we’d still see new cases occurring for at least another week to 10 days.”

South West Water announced a second bottled water collection point at Freshwater Quarry car park:

P.S. SWW have issued another press release about the cryptosporidium outbreak, the start of which reads as follows:

South West Water has announced it will be increasing its compensation to customers in Brixham in recognition of the impact to them following the detection of cryptosporidium in the area.

Yesterday (15 May) the company’s extended monitoring and sampling found small traces of cryptosporidium in the Hillhead area of its local water network.

South West Water issued a boil water notice to around 16,000 households and businesses in the area, advising them not to use their tap water for drinking or washing without boiling and cooling it first.

As part of the boil water notice, customers were told they would be given £15 compensation under South West Water’s Customer Promise.

South West Water has confirmed it will now increase the compensation by £100 to say sorry for the stress and worry the situation has caused. This will automatically be paid to customers and the company will continue to keep the level of compensation under review.

South West Water is also setting up a dedicated phoneline to talk to local businesses and water retailers about the impact this may have had on them and to fast-track any compensation due.

Laura Flowerdew, South West Water’s Chief Customer and Digital Officer, said: “We sincerely apologise for the impact this is having on our customers in the Brixham and Alston areas.

“Protecting the health of our customers and providing them with a clean, fresh drinking water supply is our number one priority and we will continue to work around the clock to make sure that happens as soon as possible.”

South West Water is working closely with the UK Health Security Agency and other public health partners to urgently investigate how cryptosporidium is getting into its network so it can be fixed and the drinking supply returned to the high quality standards expected by its customers as quickly as possible.

The company has set up two bottled water collection points at Broadsands Car Park in Paignton, and Fresh Water Quarry Public Car Park in Brixham, where customers can collect bottled water. It continues to deliver bottled water for those customers that need it.

If any customers are unsure whether they are in the affected areas, they can check on South West Water’s postcode tracker at https://www.southwestwater.co.uk/household/help-support/in-your-area/service-updates

[Update – May 17th]

South West Water announced a second bottled water collection point at Churston Car Boot Field:

Meanwhile, according to the BBC:

The number of confirmed cases of a waterborne disease in south Devon has more than doubled, health officials say.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said cases of cryptosporidiosis, an illness that causes prolonged diarrhoea, had risen to 46.

More than 100 people have also reported symptoms, it said.

[Update – May 18th]

According to the BBC this morning:

People living in the area affected by a waterborne parasite outbreak in south Devon have described the impact on their lives as “terrible” and a water company’s response to the situation as “poor”…

South West Water (SWW) said it believed it had found the source of the issue and said it was sincerely sorry for the impact the incident was having.

But people living in the area have criticised the water firm’s handling of the “scary” incident…

About 16,000 homes and businesses have been advised to boil water before drinking it until further notice.

SWW said it was draining the Hillhead reservoir and the wider Alston area of Brixham was still being investigated as a potential cause for the outbreak.

Kayley Lewis, 33, said she and other members of her family had been suffering from cryptosporidium symptoms since 5 May, adding she had lost about 6lb (3kg) in weight in six days.

She said her 13-year-old son had become so ill, they had had to rush him to hospital after blood was found in his vomit, which she said was “scary” to deal with.

On Tuesday, SWW officials said there were no issues with its treated water and tap water was safe to drink, but 24 hours later told residents to boil their water after traces of cryptosporidium were found.

Ms Lewis said initial advice and the later U-turn summed up the “disgusting” way SWW had responded.

Ms Lewis said: “They took samples from my neighbours and even said to them it’ll be 24 hours until we get the results.

“But two hours later they mentioned on social media that it was fine to drink the water in Brixham when clearly it wasn’t OK to drink.”

To be continued…

Jim Hunt

I've been programming computers since the late 60s. In those days they didn't have computers in schools, so we had to build our own. What can I program next? Will I have to build it first?

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