Pause for thought in postcode lottery

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Water bosses have apologised after residents claimed they were fooled into drinking from an unsafe supply by a “misleading” phone message.

United Utilities has been forced to re-record its cryptosporiodium call-line following claims it gave out an incorrect postcode.

Residents in PR26, which includes parts of South Ribble and Chorley, thought they were clear to resume drinking from the tap on Thursday night when the company announced it was lifting the boil water alert for 80,000 consumers.

But what the recorded message should have said was PR2 6 which covers northern parts of Preston like Ashton, Fulwood, Ribbleton and Ingol.

“As soon as I saw on TV that they were lifting the alert in parts of the area I phoned the helpline and it said PRtwo-six,” said one resident in Moss Side. “They didn’t put a pause in between the two and the six, so to me it came across as 26.

“I told the family ‘whoopee we can start drinking tap water again’ and so we all had a glass. But the following morning when my husband went on the internet and checked the postcodes, ours wasn’t one of them.

“I phoned United Utilities and told them what had happened and they were very apologetic. It took them a while, but they later changed the recorded message to make it clear.

“But it was too late for us, because we had already drunk the water. I dread to think how many more in this large area have done the same. I only hope we don’t all come down ill.”

A United Utilities spokesperson said: “We had a few problems with the recording. Firstly people said it was too quiet and they couldn’t hear it properly and then this.

“We asked that the announcement stressed the gap in between the numbers. But apart from this one lady, I don’t think we have had any other complaints about it.”