South West Water blasted after contaminated water outbreak in Devon

Bosses at South West Water have come under serious fire following people falling ill due to contaminated drinking water in Devon.

One local MP branded the company contemptible and incompetent after more than 100 people fell ill in the Brixham area.

Anthony Mangnall, the MP for Totnes and South Devon, said on Saturday that the firm’s response to the crisis has “put a lot of people’s health at risk”.

Chief executive of SWW, Susan Davy, was forced to apologise on Friday over the outbreak, saying she was “truly sorry”.

At one stage around 15,000 households in the area we warned not to drink their tap water.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said on Friday that 46 cases of parasite cryptosporidium had been confirmed in Brixham, up from 22 cases on Thursday, while more than 100 people reported symptoms, including diarrhoea, stomach pains and dehydration.

A spokeswoman from Number 10 has said that the prime minister “understands the stress and worry this has caused residents”.

“He’s very clear that this must be investigated thoroughly by the Drinking Water Inspectorate and UK Health Security Agency.”

“Any water company that’s found to be in breach of rules on drinking water should expect to face the appropriate enforcement action up to and including criminal prosecution.”

The government has announced a quadrupling of inspections and provided increased powers to Ofwat and the Environment Agency to hold water companies to account, the spokeswoman added.

A damaged air valve on a pipe in a field containing cattle has been identified as a potential source leading to the existence of small traces of parasite in a local water network.

Conservative MP Anthony Mangnall, whose Totnes constituency includes Brixham, said SWW’s response to the parasite outbreak in the seaside town had been inadequate.

He said: “The predominant failure is the fact that earlier in the week, South West Water was asked whether or not this was to do with their network and they categorically ruled it out, only for them to change their position 24 hours later, which I think is contemptible and just generally incompetent – and it’s put a lot of people’s health at risk.”

Mr Mangnall added that SWW had failed to “safeguard public health” and would “be absolutely on the line” to compensate local businesses which have lost money because of the outbreak.

South West Water (SWW) say they have found the source of the parasite and chief Susan Davy said she was “truly sorry”.


The company first announced £115 in compensation to affected customers, which has now been raised to an additional £100.


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