Ed Walker of Blog Preston writes the reason why Prestonians couldn’t drink their water without boiling it for a month has finally been revealed.
United Utilities has been fined after a cryptosporidium outbreak at its Franklaw treatment plants to the north of Preston,
The Drinking Water Inspectorate found the problems came from the Franklaw works using a different reservoir to source water
Rainwater running off agricultural land was able to access an underground water tank at Barnacre.
A ‘planned change in operations’ allowed the entry of the contaminated water into the treatment process.
Traces of cryptosporidium were detected in the water at Franklaw triggering a shut off of supplies for 700,000 people across Lancashire.
Supplies for many were knocked out for a month during the summer of 2015 as engineers worked to fix the issue.
At Preston Crown Court the hearing fined United Utilities £300,000 and additional costs of £150,000 were also agreed. The firm had pleaded guilty to supplying water unfit for human consumption.
United Utilities was criticised for not acting fast enough to issue the boil water warning to households and businesses.
It has since paid out £20million in compensation to customers through reduced water bills.
The fine was branded ‘pathetic’ by Preston MP Mark Hendrick.
United Utilities accepts it is facing a colossal compensation bill for the first cryptosporidium contamination of drinking water in the North West UK this century.
But the company has reassured consumers the payouts – estimated already at £15m and mounting – will not be offset by a rise in water bills.
“Bills will not increase to cover the cost of compensation,” insisted a spokesman.
“This cost will be borne by the company.”
With more than 300,000 households and businesses hit by the scare, now into its third week, United Utilities has declined to put a figure on how much the crypto invasion will amount to.
But in a recent case in Bolton, where consumers had to boil their drinking water for five days after supply problems, the company paid out £15 per house to cover the cost.
With the inconvenience to customers in Preston, South Ribble, Chorley, the Fylde Coast and villages like Samlesbury, Mellor and Mellor Brook at least three times that already, claims could amount to at least £45 a household, or £13.5m in total.
With businesses set to lodge much higher demands for compensation after providing bottled water to all employees during the scare – BAE Systems is thought to have spent more than £100,000 already on keeping its 10,000-strong workforce in Lancashire hydrated – the bill is estimated to be rising by £1m a day.