Water crisis hits 300,000 customers

Scientists in the testing labs of the United Utilities HQ in Great Sankey, near Warrington
Scientists in the testing labs of the United Utilities HQ in Great Sankey, near Warrington

Scientists are working around the clock in an effort to resolve a water scare that has affected 300,000 people.

United Utilities has urged residents to boil their drinking water after traces of the bug cryptosporidium – a microscopic parasite which can cause stomach cramps and diarrhoea – was found at Franklaw water treatment plant in Catter-all, near Garstang.

A health warning was given on Thursday and re-mains in place, with around 300,000 people in Lancashire unable to drink water straight from the tap.

Care homes are among the businesses affected by not being able to consume water straight from the tap.

Michelle Darwen, reg-istered manager at Clough House residential care home, Worden Lane, Leyland, said: “ We’re constantly boiling the kettle

and pans all the time and letting it cool if they want a cold drink.

“The electricity’s going to be a lot dearer because we’ve got the kettle on the boil all the time.

“I thought United Utili-ties would have come with some courtesy bottles of water, but we’ve not received anything.”

She said most of the resi-dents understood, but that some needed to be monitored.

“Some do understand. But the ones with dementia, we’re having to make sure there’s someone with them when they’re getting washed so they don’t do their teeth with the water in the sink. We’re monitoring it to the highest level we can until it’s back to normal.”

The week-long Leyland Playscheme struck lucky in that the contamination only affected the end of the event which was enjoyed by hundreds of children.

Playscheme director Ian Bruce said: “We were lucky it only happened on our last day.

“We did have to go out and empty pretty much every supermarket in Leyland of water - four car loads of water in one day.”

Grant Pinches, duty general manager at the Old Leyland Gates, Golden Hill Lane, Leyland, said: “It only affects the bar with the ice and draft cokes, but we’ve been able to supply bottles. The coffees are off.”

Elle Watson, part owner of Aroma, Hough Lane, Leyland, said they had had to use bottled for cold drinks.

She said: “The coffee machines boil to highest, so they’ve not been affected, and we’ve got our own filters.

“It’s just cold drinks we’ve had to buy bottled water for.”

Lucy Appleby, owner of Lucy’s Teatime Treats, Towngate, Leyland, said: “We’re just using lots of bottled water and boiling it up.”

United Utilities representatives are in the foyer of the Civic Centre, South Ribble Council between 8am and 8pm today. Residents have been invited along to ask any questions they might have.

They also had an emergency water supply that vulnerable people could use.

Bosses at United Utilities said test results showed the amount of cryptosporidium in the water has reduced, but people were still advised to boil water before drinking it.

Martin Padley, chief scientific officer at United Utilities, said: “The advice is being given purely as a precautionary measureas we carry out additional tests.

“We apologise for the inconvenience .”

but the health of our customers is absolutely paramount.”

Hospitals sourced 50,000 litres of bottled water for patients and staff, while charities also stocked up and supermarket shelves were stripped bare as people rushed to buy supplies.

Hospital chiefs said there was no evidence the incident had affected any patients or caused an increase in attendance to the emergency department.

A spokesman for Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, which includes Chorley And South Ribble Hospital, said: “We have sourced more than 50,000 litres of bottled water which we are providing to patients and staff.

“We are awaiting further advice from United Utilities before reinstating the use of the mains water supply.”

Hospices have also had to make adjustments as they continue to care for their patients.

Meanwhile, investigations were underway into how the bug, commonly found in animals such as livestock, found its way into water at the treatment works.

And United Utiltiies have pledged to look at paying compensation to residents once the water supply is back to normal.