Watchdog date over crypto bug outbreak

Water chiefs are in for a grilling
Water chiefs are in for a grilling

Water chiefs face a grilling over the cryptosporidium contamination in Lancashire when they appear before the industry watchdog next week.

In particular United Utilities bosses will have their record on compensating victims put under the microscope following the month-long boil water scare in August.

The news comes just days after the company announced it had paid out the vast majority of claims, with only a minority of business customers still to be processed.

United Utilities is one of four water companies attending the Consumer Council for Water’s northern committee meeting on Thursday.

But the Warrington-based supplier will take centre stage when the first large scale crypto case in Britain for many years comes up for discussion.

CCWater, the independent voice of water consumers, will want to know what happened and what the firm has done since then to refund more than 300,000 customers.

Households have already been paid between £50 and £60 depending on the length of time they were without clean water. Businesses have all been asked to submit individual claims, most of which have now been refunded.

The total bill has come to around £25m and United Utilities will be asked to give an update at the meeting in Leeds.

But the watchdog will not hear a full explanation of exactly how the microscopic parasite got into the drinking water in large parts of the county at the start of August.

United Utilities bosses are still waiting to hear the outcome of a thorough investigation by the Drinking Water Inspectorate.

That has been ongoing for the past 15 weeks and, according to the Inspectorate, it could drag on for some time yet.

Consumers across Preston, South Ribble, Chorley and the Fylde Coast were hit by the scare on Thursday August 6 after routine tests of filters at the Franklaw water treatment plant near Garstang showed up traces of the bug which can cause sickness and diarrhoea if injested.

All households and businesses in the affected areas were advised to boil all drinking water.

It took 30 days before United Utilities could lift the warning notice completely after an extensive and expensive clean-up, which involved the installation of ultra-violet units at various points around a vast supply network.

The company came in for some criticism about the size of the compensation payouts, with some customers claiming the refunds had not even covered bills during the period supplies were affected.