Lancashire tap water bug outbreak: Calls for delay probe

Tap water Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Householders and businesses in Blackpool, Chorley, Fylde, Preston, South Ribble and Wyre had to boil water for 30 days due to the outbreak

A former health chief is calling for a parliamentary inquiry into why an investigation into a bug in Lancashire tap water is taking so long.

United Utilities found the bug in water in August last year resulting in 300,000 households and businesses having to boil drinking water.

The Drinking Water Inspectorate is investigating the source but is yet to publish its findings.

Professor John Ashton said the lack of answers on the cause was unacceptable.

Image caption Professor John Ashton said the delay was unacceptable

Prof Ashton, a former director of public health for north-west England, said MPs should be putting pressure on the Drinking Water Inspectorate to provide answers into the source of the contamination.

South Ribble MP Seema Kennedy said she had written repeatedly to the government and also called for a select committee inquiry into what happened.

She said: "I cannot believe that [16] months on from the outbreak they cannot tell at least their best estimate.

"If they don't know what it was... say you don't know what it was because this causes all sorts of speculation which is really unhelpful."

Image caption Microbiologist Derek Gatherer said there would be no shame in saying they did not know the cause

The Drinking Water Inspectorate said in a statement: "We appreciate the interest in the investigation into the event that affected drinking water in Lancashire in 2015.

"The investigation is ongoing and the outcome will be published at the end of the process."

Microbiologist Derek Gatherer at Lancaster University said there would be "no shame" for inspectors to say they do not know the source of the contamination.

He said: "It's much better to say we don't know rather than keep everyone hanging on in a state of uncertainty."

Routine tests by United Utilities found traces of cryptosporidium at Franklaw water treatment works outside Preston.

The outbreak affected properties in Blackpool, Chorley, Fylde, Preston, South Ribble and Wyre and lasted for four weeks.

The bug is a parasite that can cause extreme diarrhoea.

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