Brixham businesses fear parasite outbreak will harm bank holiday trade

Jacquie Bird reports on Brixham businesses' fears ahead of the bank holiday

Businesses in Brixham say they fear the discovery of a parasite in the water supply and the publicity that followed could harm Bank Holiday trade for the seaside town.

South West Water confirmed the presence of cryptosporidium on Wednesday 15 May, which is a microscopic parasite that can cause unpleasant symptoms including vomiting and diarrhoea.

Two people have been taken to hospital following the outbreak, while around 17,000 homes have been affected.

Hospitality businesses fear that tourists could be put off from visiting the town during the bank holiday, leading to a downturn in trade.

Carolina Vottero, a trader in the town, said: "It hasn't affected us in the way of how we run it, but it is in what we're getting back. It is actually quiet.

Bottled water being delivered to houses in some parts of Brixham. Credit: ITV News

"Let's hope for the bank holiday coming up (that) people are still up for it.

"And hopefully the weather is better, today is raining but glorious weather last week and it is still dead", she added.

Andrew Wade, from the support charity YES Brixham, also warned: "There's a large cohort of people who haven't really recovered from the mental and psychological effects of the pandemic, and this sort of thing starts all of those feelings off again."

But visitors who spoke to ITV News West Country said they were not put off by the public health issue.

One woman said: "It didn't stop me from coming, not at all. I did slightly worry about it. But, I thought, I can buy bottled water."

"We were aware of the water problem in the area but that didn't deter us", said another. "It just made us take precautions, that's all."

Helen Ambler who is the community builder for the town also said residents in Brixham had rallied together to support one another.

"People have been amazing", she told ITV News.

Affected residents queued to receive bottled water at a car park in Brixham. Credit: PA

"There's such a community spirit in Brixham, they're incredible and I'm really proud to be the community builder for Brixham and supporting them where I can."

South West Water says it is aware businesses will be impacted by the incident and is working to provide support to everybody affected in the wider Brixham area.

The company has also launched a hotline for businesses to call and where staff can answer questions relating to compensation.

It has assured owners that all claims will be "fast-tracked" and reviewed on an individual basis.

"We understand that businesses will be impacted by this incident, and we are dealing with this on a case-by-case basis", a spokesperson said.

"If businesses call 03332 343293 we will be able to understand the impact on them and look at how we best support them and their individual circumstances."

The company's CEO Susan Davy said she was "truly sorry" for the disruption caused and has raised the compensation payment to all customers who have been issued a boil notice for more than seven days.

"As further support to household customers in the Hillhead supply area while we continue working around the clock to resolve this issue, we are increasing that payment to £50, in addition to the £215 already provided", a spokesperson said.

"Household customers still under a boil notice will now receive £265 in total."

But the company has faced criticism for acting too slowly and for recently announcing an increase in annual dividends for shareholders, while politicians have said there is a deficit of trust between local people and South West Water.