Welsh Water fined over bug outbreakStomach bug hit hundreds of customers

12 October 2007

 

a tap with water flowing

Planning ahead is key to meeting demands

A water company has been fined £60,000 for supplying water which made hundreds of its customers ill.

Welsh Water admitted four counts of supplying water unfit for human consumption at Caernarfon Magistrates' Court.

Between October 2005 and January 2006, 231 customers including babies and pensioners in the Gwynedd and Anglesey areas of North Wales were infected with the stomach bug Cryptosporidium.

The virus causes symptoms including nausea, diarrhoea and headaches.

John Charles Rees QC, defending Welsh Water, told the court that the company had been 'slow' in implementing, monitoring and sampling of its water in 2005.

He said: 'The managing director of the company, who is in court, and the board of directors are truly devastated and sorry.'

Unfit for consumption

Mr Rees said the sampling system of the water should have been 'implemented' in September 2005.

Initially Welsh Water faced five counts of supplying water unfit for human consumption, but one count was withdrawn due to a technicality.

The court also heard that Welsh Water has taken steps to prevent further outbreaks.

Welsh Water was ordered by the court to pay costs of £69,399.43.

Announcing the fine of £60,000, Gwynfor Jones, chairman of the bench at the court, said: 'This was a serious breach which resulted in a parasitic hazard to members of the public. We are also to consider aggravating factors such as failing to heed warnings, together with mitigating factors such as a timely guilty plea.'

Future outbreaks

Professor Jeni Colbourne, chief inspector of the Drinking Water Inspectorate, said a package of new measures is to be introduced for the entire water industry to reduce the chances of another outbreak.

She said: 'This was a serious incident. Many consumers were affected at the time and for some, the consequences were severe.

'My inspectors will shortly be issuing their Incident Assessment Letter. This will record the conclusions and findings of our investigation.

'Welsh Water are required to respond to all recommendations for action to prevent a recurrence.

'I am pleased to report that wider lessons have been learnt from this incident.

'To reduce the chance of a repetition of the mistakes made by the water supplier the relevant regulations are being changed.'

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