WATER CHAOS: Compensation claims spark debate

Plans to offer compensation to residents after a parasite was discovered in the water supply in Lancashire has divided readers.

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 9th August 2015, 2:59 pm
Activity at the Franklaw Water Treatment plant on Catterall Lane, Garstang, after news of water contamination
Activity at the Franklaw Water Treatment plant on Catterall Lane, Garstang, after news of water contamination

United Utilities pledged to look at paying compensation to residents 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.

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

But news that United Utilities would look at offering compensation to residents has split opinion.

Reader Imran Patel tweeted the firm to say: “I think you should cut the water rates to half for the next six months.”

Dozens have posted on stories online, with many welcoming news compensation could be offered to those affected.

Commenting online one user, who goes by the name ‘Safeashouses’, posted: “The very least they can do is build a discount into the next bill. Joe Public shouldn’t have to pay for their incompetence.”

‘Simon PNE’ posted: “For several days, UU have failed to provide safe drinking water to hundreds of thousands of customers across Blackpool, Fylde, Wyre, Preston and South Ribble who pay UU hundreds of pounds each year to ensure that they get exactly that.

“UU have also failed to show that they have an effective strategy to quickly notify its customers of a risk to the health of the general public.

“If you buy goods or services anywhere else and those goods or services are not up to expectations you would be perfectly within your rights to ask for your money back.

UU, a company which turned over an operating profit of £664.3m in the year up to the end of March 2015, should not expect to be treated any differently.”

However, not everyone agrees.

‘Asriel’ posted: “People asking for compensation are being ridiculous, it’s not like there is no water from the tap, you just got to boil it, Clearing the shelves of bottled water panic buying what a joke.”

‘Wadeypops’ posted: “If we all get compensation after this, United Utilities will just re-coup the money back by increasing next years water bill. Best for us would be a promise from United Utilities not to increase rates for at least two years if this lasts for one week, then another year for every week this continues. Yes it is an inconvenience, but better to be safe than sorry.”

The debate comes after Gary Dixon, domestic retail director for United Utilities, said the firm would look at the issue of compensation once the water supply was back to normal.

He said: “We are looking at the incident, we are focusing on resolving the problems that we have got.

“The priority for us is to get these supplies back to normal conditions, normal quality levels, and then we will look at compensation.”

Investigations into how the bug, commonly found in animals such as livestock, found its way into water at the treatment works will also be carried out once the water supply returns to normal.

United Utilities are continuing to take samples of water in the region to test it.

Mr Dixon said test results showed the amount of cryptosporidium in the water had reduced, but people were still advised to boil water before drinking it.

“The very little trace of cryptosporidium we have had in the water is even smaller now so we are making good progress, but we are not out of the woods yet. We have got more to do,” he said.

United Utilities had 300 members of staff delivering leaflets to inform residents of the situation.

They have also sent text messages with regular updates to registered customers and sent thousands of “voice blasts” - recorded messages left on landline telephone answering machines.

Bottled water is being delivered to people identified as vulnerable, such as those with medical conditions.

And United Utilities are reminding people not to panic buy bottled water, after shelves were cleared in some supermarkets.

A spokesman said: “There isn’t any need for people to panic buy bottled water, though we understand why people might want to do that.

“By taking the water from the tap and boiling it, it’s safe to use.”

For more on the water contamination in Lancashire visit the links below: