Around 2,500 Devon homes must still 'boil water' over parasite risk, says South West Water

Around 2,500 homes in Brixham, Devon, have been told to continue boiling their tap water before drinking it.
Around 2,500 homes in Brixham, Devon, have been told to continue boiling their tap water before drinking it. Credit: PA

Thousands of Devon residents must continue to boil their tap water before drinking it because of a parasite outbreak, a water company has said.

It comes after 46 confirmed cases of cryptosporidiosis - a waterborne illness which can cause unpleasant symptoms such as diarrhoea and vomiting.

Around 2,500 households in Brixham, south Devon, have been told their tap water could still be unsafe to drink.

The microscopic cryptosporidium parasite, which caused the disease, likely entered the water network through a damaged air pipe in a field containing cattle.

Around 17,000 households and businesses were issued with a 'boil water' notice on Wednesday.

South West Water (SWW) has said 14,500 households can now safely drink tap water again, but around 2,500 homes must continue to boil their water.

The 'boil water' notice remains in place while work is undertaken to refill the Hillhead reservoir.

David Harris, drought and resilience director at SWW, said: “The Hillhead reservoir has been successfully drained, thoroughly cleaned, and we will start refilling today.

“We will also start flushing the wider Hillhead network today, which is being continuously monitored as we work to eliminate any traces of cryptosporidium.

“We will not lift the boil water notice in Hillhead until we and our public health partners are completely satisfied it is safe to do so.

“I want to again apologise for the immense disruption this is causing. This should not have happened and I promise we will fix this problem as soon as possible.”

Around 2,500 households in Brixham, Devon, have been told to continue to boil their tap water. Credit: PA

SWW said an additional £100 compensation will be paid to customers in the areas which continue to be affected – bringing the total to £215.

Three stations continue to offer safe bottled water to customers alongside direct deliveries to vulnerable customers, schools, hospitals and care homes.

Conservative MP Anthony Mangnall, whose Totnes constituency includes Brixham, had previously told the PA news agency that SWW’s response to the outbreak was “contemptible and just generally incompetent”.

The company said affected residents can continue to use their tap water as normal for washing, bathing and flushing the toilet.

The disease can be picked up directly from the faeces of another person or animal, from swimming in or drinking contaminated water, or by eating contaminated food such as unwashed vegetables.

The number of confirmed cases could rise because of a delay in symptom development caused by the parasite’s incubation period.

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