Water supply chaos to continue

Action: Activity at the Franklaw Water Treatment plant on Catterall Lane, Garstang.
Action: Activity at the Franklaw Water Treatment plant on Catterall Lane, Garstang.

Supermarket shelves lay bare as the Fylde coast water supply chaos saw shoppers panic buying bottled water.

United Utilities bosses have said advice to boil tap water to kill off parasites that have affected supplies across Lancashire will remain in place over the weekend and into next week,

We will not be serving rap water to our customers

It comes as swimming pools in Blackpool were forced to close yesterday amid fears they could be contaminated with cryptosporidium – a bug that causes diarrhoea and stomach cramps.

Businesses up and down the Fylde coast are feeling the effects of the situation, which follows the discovery of the chlorine-resistant parasite in samples of water at United Utilities’ Franklaw water treatment plant in Catterall, near Garstang.

Several hotels were handing out bottled water to guests, while bars were resorting to sourcing uncontaminated ice cubes.

The Imperial Hotel, on North Promenade, and Village Urban Resort Blackpool both announced yesterday they were closing their swimming pools on advice from United Utilities.

Matthew Southword, manager at Bond Hotel, on Bond Street, South Shore, said: “We are struggling.

“We cater for people with disabilities and there is no water left anywhere to buy.

“We phoned all our suppliers and they have got nothing.

“We have got about 85 guests checking in and we’ve just got pans of water boiling for them – at the moment that’s all we can do.”

Several supermarkets in Blackpool had sold out of bottled water yesterday morning and shoppers reported similar scenes on Thursday evening, within hours of United Utilities raising the alarm.

Fleetwood resident Alan Marsh said: “I was in Aldi at about 6pm and there wasn’t a drop of bottled water left.

“Asda sold out too and that was within three hours of the notice being put out.”

Meanwhile, businesses struggled to ensure their customers were not affected by the scare.

The family-run Fairmile Hotel, in St Annes, said it was handing out bottled water to guests yesterday.

Jack’s Restaurant and Bar, on Wood Street, St Annes, put out a statement yesterday morning saying: “We will not be serving tap water to our customers, bottled water will be available as always to purchase.

“We will be buying ice that’s not contaminated.

“The chefs will wash any food produce with bottled water.”

Residents are also advised to boil water and allow it to cool down before giving it to pets, with several people getting in touch with United Utilities on Twitter after their animals reportedly got sick after drinking potentially contaminated water.

However, not everyone has been suffering as a result of the warning.

Julie Booker from Lytham Brewery, in Cambells Court, Lord Street, St Annes, said: “Thankfully it makes no difference to us at all as we boil our water at such a high temperature and for a long time. It kills everything in the water.

“I think beer is probably one of the safest things to drink at the moment.”

Health bosses have acted to make sure patients at Blackpool Victoria Hospital are not affected by the scare. A spokesman for Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “The Trust has been following all the guidance provided by United Utilities and NHS England throughout the incident and kept staff and patients fully informed.

“We have received a large supply of bottled water which has been distributed across the organisation for patients and staff to use and communicated all the health advice given by United Utilities throughout the day.” Amandeep Dhillon, an expert Public Health lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, who has represented hundreds of people who have suffer gastric illnesses as a result of exposure to Cryptosporidium, said: “The discovery of Cryptosporidium in the water supply in Lancashire is extremely concerning.

“Cryptosporidium can have serious health implications for those affected and in our work we have seen first-hand the long-term issues that it can cause, from which some victims may never fully recover.

“Protecting the general public from outbreaks of this nature is the main priority and it is vital that a thorough investigation is carried out to determine why and how Cryptosporidium came to be present in water supplies and that steps are taken to attempt to reduce the likelihood of further contamination occurring in the future.”

United Utilities bosses urge folk not to panic

Investigations are continuing into how the bug, commonly found in animals such as livestock, found its way into water at the treatment works.

United Utilities said samples taken from the site were “continuing to reduce”, and cards were being put through the letterboxes of affected homes.

They were taking bottled water to vulnerable customers, including the elderly, those with medical conditions and those on dialysis.

But bosses at United Utilities urged people not to panic-buy bottled water and to boil it instead, making it safe to drink and also getting the water out of the network quicker.

Hospital chiefs said there was no evidence the incident had affected any patients or caused an increase in attendance to the Emergency Department.And supermarkets were working to provide extra water, as customers cleared the shelves.

A Sainsbury’s spokesman said: “On Tuesday night we delivered additional supplies of bottled water to seven supermarkets, and an additional ten pallets were on their way yesterday afternoon.”

The RSPCA advised people to follow the same guidelines for animals as for humans.

United Utilities said the warning for people in Preston, Chorley, Fylde, South Ribble, Wyre and Blackpool, would be in place until next week.

Dr. Martin Padley, United Utilities’ Chief Scientific Officer said: “We’d like to thank customers for their immense patience as we work to restore normal service.

“As a precaution, we’d ask people to continue to boil their water for drinking, food preparation and brushing of teeth until further notice.

“The boiled water notice will apply throughout the weekend, and most likely, into the early part of next week. We’ll continue to keep customers informed.”

Huge backlash over way problem was handled

Water bosses today hit back after mounting criticism over the way the water contamination announcement was handled.

Scores of people commented on The Gazette’s website and Facebook page over how United Utilities handled the outbreak concerns.

One person commenting, who goes by the name of “annetony”, said: “I only found out about it when I went on Facebook yesterday, working at the hospital I think it’s disgusting that no one was informed about this as everyone was drinking water from the tap, there is no bottled water left in the supermarkets and when you boil the kettle for some it takes ages to cool so if you have medication to take you might not take on time it has a much bigger affect on people than they can imagine.”

Preston Lass said: “Why weren’t we told sooner and in a more effective way, such as door to door leaflets?”

Craig Miller added: “How is it that I only found out about this bug on social media around 5pm on Thursday, when United Utilities knew about this bug on Wednesday?”

And Tony Woody said: “United Utilities should be coming round with bottled water for every house affected, finding out about this at tea time yesterday was a bit late for some people.”

But United Utilities bosses defended their response, and a spokesman said: “We carried out the tests and then on Thursday, after consulting with our multi-agency partners, a decision was taken which was the first time a decision could be taken, to issue the boil water notice.

“It was issued purely as a precaution.

“As soon as it became readily available from the tests that we carried out it was made known into the public domain from ourselves and other partners.

“As soon as the tests were confirmed and we had agreement with NHS England and Public Health England the information went out immediately,

“That was the earliest opportunity we could have done that.”