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United Utilities engineers work to flush out water bug trace as firm keeps boil water warning in force

Posted on - 7th August, 2015 - 2:18pm | Author - | Posted in - News
Inside the Franklaw water treatment works

Inside the Franklaw water treatment works

United Utilities engineers are working this afternoon to flush out the pipe network around the Franklaw treatment plant.

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It follows a warning to customers in Preston and the surrounding area to boil their water from Thursday afternoon before drinking it.

The firm has now advised this warning will stay in place until Monday as they continue to work to resolve the issue.

A trace of Cryptosporidium – which can cause diarrhea – was found in the water network and as a precaution they have advised people not to drink from the mains.

A frequently asked questions has been issued by the company, which can be found below:

Q. What has happened to the water supply in this area?
A. We take regular samples from our water supply system to ensure that water meets the high standards our customers expect. This monitoring has shown there are traces of Cryptosporidium in the water. This is a bug which is commonly found in animals such as livestock. It can occasionally be transmitted from animals to humans in a number of ways including through water supplies.

Q. What do I need to do?
A. As a precaution, we are suggesting that our customers in this area boil their water until our testing regime show that our water quality is back to its usual standard.

Q. Has anything gone wrong with the water treatment plant?
A. No. We have made thorough checks at the local works and no operating problems have been found.

Q. If there is nothing wrong with the works, how has the Cryptosporidium entered the water supplies? Could it happen again and does this mean we will need to keep boiling our water?
A. We are currently investigating this. We check for cryptosporidium by taking regular samples of water at the treatment plant. There may still be traces of cryptosporidium as the water makes its way through the network. The boiled water advice will be removed when sampling shows there is no longer cryptosporidium in the network.

Q. How could Cryptosporidium get into the system?
A. There is no identified source, but investigations are being carried out.

Q. I can see there is a lot of activity on your Twitter feed. Why has it taken you so long to provide a response?
A. We have issued this advice as a precautionary measure after carefully examining all available information, including the results from water samples we take regularly, and after consultation with all appropriate authorities including Public Health England. Given the very small risk to public health, which is our absolute priority, we issued this advice as soon as we were absolutely certain it was necessary.

Q. How worried should I be?
A. Cryptosporidium is a microscopic organism which exists in the environment in a form called an oocyst. These oocysts are tiny – less than one-tenth the thickness of a human hair! The parasite is commonly found in cattle, sheep, humans and many other mammals as well as birds, fish and reptiles. These oocysts, if ingested, can cause a gastrointestinal illness called cryptosporidiosis. People most commonly develop cryptosporidiosis after coming into contact an infected animal (including domestic pets), or an infected person, or by consuming contaminated food, milk or water. Many recent outbreaks have been associated with swimming in contaminated pools both in the UK and abroad. We minimise the risk from Cryptosporidium by protecting our raw water sources from contamination by careful catchment management. Any cryptosporidium oocysts which do make it to our raw water are removed by the treatment processes we use at our water treatment works.

Q. What are you currently doing to get our water supplies back to normal?
A. Samples of water from the treatment works and the wider network show that the traces of cryptosporidium are continuing to reduce. However, testing will continue and the boiled water notice will not be lifted until we are absolutely satisfied that the water is back to the usual extremely high standards.

Engineers are also working to flush out the pipe network in the local area surrounding the treatment works, to speed up the process. Investigations are also ongoing into how the bug found its way into water at the treatment works.

We are putting cards through letterboxes of affected homes today, as a supplement to efforts to communicate the advice via social media, newspapers, radio and TV

Q. How long do people have to boil their water?
A. We suggest you boil your water until we tell you that you no longer need to do so

Q. What will boiling the water do?
A. By boiling the water will ensure that the water is safe to drink. This is a proven method.

Q. How long is it going to take to clear up this problem?
A. We are continuing to test water samples from around the affected area and when we get the all clear we will let people know there is no need to continue to boil the water before drinking or food preparation.

Q. What should people do if they have symptoms?
A. If you have diarrhoea which lasts for a number of days or is particularly painful, you should see your doctor.

Q. What if I have an existing medical condition?
A. As a precaution, we are suggesting that our customers boil their water for drinking, food preparation and brushing teeth until our testing regime shows that our water quality is back to usual extremely high standards.. If you are worried, please contact your doctor.

Q. I am a dialysis patient. Can you offer advice?
Cryptosporidiosis is a gut disease and there is no risk of contracting it during dialysis. However, you should boil your tap water for drinking water. If you have any other concerns please contact your dialysis administrator

Q. Is it safe to eat food after washing my hands?
A. There is a minimal risk so it is better to wash your hands and then eat food, than not.

Q. Can my pets drink the water?
A. Yes but we suggest you use the water you have boiled and cooled down

Q. Are stored ice or ice cubes safe to use?
A. If they are made from boiled water they are safe. Otherwise they are a potential risk so should be discarded.

Q. Can I use my dishwasher?
A. Yes, as long as you have the settings at 65 degrees or above

Q. Can I use vending machines?
A. We advise you not to use these machines unless they heat water to 80C. Ideally, you should turn them off and disconnect them from the water supply. Once water supplies are back to normal, before using the machine, you should clean out and replace any filters as recommended by the manufacturer’s operating manual. Please be careful when handling and disposing of filter cartridges, as a precaution in case Cryptosporidium is present. See also specific advice in section 3. Do not use cold drinks from vending machines.

Q. Does the boil water advice have any implications for swimming pool operation?
A. No, if you have a swimming pool with UV disinfection processes or if the water passes through treatment including coagulation and filtration. If you are unsure, please contact the manufacturer. If the pool uses just a chemical disinfectant e.g. chlorine, we would advise that you do not use the pool and refresh the water once supplies have returned to normal.

Q. Does the boil water advice have any implications for milk supplies at dairies?
A. No.

Q. What about people who are away or cannot read the boil water notification?
A. People will see the notice upon their return. We will be making special arrangements for groups like the visually impaired and we already have a register of people with special needs.

Q. My water’s discoloured, is it safe?
A. We have switched over the local water supplies, and we know from past experience that this can cause some local discolouration because it stirs up sediment in the pipes. The discolouration is not due to any leaks into the pipes underground. We are continuing to test the water as usual and are confident the water remains safe to use when boiled. If your water is white, this is caused by air in the system and sometimes appears when supplies are switched or while pipes are being re-charged with water.

Q. Will you pay compensation?
A. Our focus is on returning water supplies to normal as quickly as possible. We will look into compensation once everything is back to normal.

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