Anguish at water crisis as scientists work around clock to ease plight of community

Scientists in the testing labs of the United Utilities HQ in Great Sankey, near Warrington

Scientists in the testing labs of the United Utilities HQ in Great Sankey, near Warrington

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Scientists are working round the clock to tackle the source of a tap water contamination which has created a ‘nightmare’ for businesses, families and the most vulnerable.

United Utilities has urged residents to boil their drinking water after traces of the bug cryptosporidium – a microscopic parasite which can cause stomach cramps and diarrhoea - was found at Franklaw water treatment plant in Catterall, near Garstang.

An urgent health warning was issued on Thursday and still remains in place, with around 300,000 people in Lancashire unable to drink water straight from the tap.

Glen Hutchinson, landlord of the Spinners At Cowling, said he had to buy bottled water, drinks in bottles, bags of ice cubes and hand sanitiser.

He said: “It’s hard work. We can’t use the water to clean salad, we are having to use bottled water for that. With the amount we use, we haven’t got time to boil the water and cool it down.

“We spent nearly £600 on additional stock of water and canned pop and we are going to have to buy more.”

Pubs are among the businesses affected by not being able to consume water straight from the tap.

A spokesman for the Dressers Arms pub in Wheelton said: “It’s made things difficult for us because we have had to go out and buy bottles of cola and lemonade, because every-thing is normally on draught.

“The ice machine is connected to the water mains so we have had to buy in ice cubes.

“The customers have been fine. I think they have been very understanding. We have not had any complaints, they just accept it for what it is.”

“It’s hard work. We can’t use the water to clean salad, we are having to use bottled water for that. With the amount we use, we haven’t got time to boil the water and cool it down.”

Glen Hutchinson

Bosses at United Utilities said test results showed the amount of cryptosporidium in the water has reduced, but people were still advised to boil water before drinking it.

Martin Padley, chief scientific officer at United Utilities, said: “The advice is being given purely as a pre-cautionary measure as we carry out additional tests.

“We apologise for the in-convenience but the health of our customers is absolutely paramount.”

Hospitals sourced 50,000 litres of bottled water for patients and staff, while charities also stocked up and supermarket shelves were stripped bare as people rushed to buy supplies.

Hospital chiefs said there was no evidence the incident had affected any patients or caused an increase in attendance to the emergency department.

Hospices have also had to make adjustments.

Danine Pasquill, head of care at Deri-an House children’s hospice in Astley Village, said: “We’re already incredibly hygiene-conscious because of the nature of our work and we have followed all the guidelines issued by United Utilities, and bought bottled water or boiled tap water as necessary. We’ve told the families whose children were booked in for respite stays, and also informed all of our staff.”

Jimmy Brash, director of care at St Catherine’s Hos-pice in Lostock Hall said: “We are extremely grateful to Waitrose, Spar and United Utilities for their generous deliveries of bottled water to St Catherine’s Hospice last Friday.”