Water declared safe to drink

August 27, 2008 at 1:38 pm

Anglian Water customers across Northamptonshire have been told that their water is now safe to drink after the parasitic organism, Cryptosporidium, was found at a water treatment plant in June. Over one quarter of a million customers were advised to boil their water before drinking, cooking or cleaning teeth to avoid vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach cramps and fever although the water was considered safe enough for baths and showers.

There were at least 15 confirmed cases of Cryptosporidium bug and over 700 people reported symptoms to their doctor. The bug can be fatal but symptoms normally last between a few days and a month. Northamptonshire County Council also closed 21 schools in the affected area due to lack of safe water but swimming pools were said to remain unaffected by the ‘boil notice’.

However, people in Northampton and Daventry were finally given the all-clear on Friday, 4 July and water for the entire area was declared safe to drink by the end of the weekend, ten days after households across Northamptonshire were notified of the bug. Staff at the Anglian Water treatment plant in Pitsford arranged for homes to be supplied by other networks and cleaned 12 water reservoirs and towers and around 1000 miles of pipes to ensure the water was safe to drink.

The source of the parasitic organism has been traced to a dead rabbit which had got into the water supply via a remote ancillary tank. However, further investigations have now revealed that this specific parasite is not deemed to be particularly harmful to humans.

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Higher standards for private water supplies

August 19, 2008 at 2:12 am

One third of a million people in England are set to see the quality of their water supply improve.

Earlier this month, Defra published a consultation on new standards and monitoring requirements for water from wells and boreholes – rather than from the public mains – supplying households and businesses throughout England.

Although most of the 42,000 private water sources in the UK serve individual dwellings, there are also businesses that rely on these supplies, including breweries, food manufacturers and guesthouses. It is extremely important, therefore, that water from private supplies is clean and free from contamination by chemicals and micro-organisms, since this could potentially affect the health of large numbers of customers and visitors.

The quality of tap water in England is generally excellent -in fact, it’s some of the best in the world – but the quality of private supplies is much more variable and, when poor, can cause significant health problems.

Launching the consultation on 11 August, Defra Minister Phil Woolas said, “Typically around 50 per cent of private supplies meet the standards. These proposals will help to ensure that water from private supplies is clean and safe, and that people can consume it with confidence and without risk to their health.”

Whilst the regulations will continue to be implemented by local councils, a new system of risk assessment will be introduced, based on the World Health Organisation’s Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality published in 2004.

In Scotland, residents have been enjoying the benefits of the new regulations since July 2006, and the Scottish Executive has also introduced a Grant Scheme to help users improve their private supplies. Grants of up to £800 are available from local councils, provided certain qualifying conditions are met.

If you get your drinking water from a private supply in England, you can comment on the proposals until 3 November by visiting the Defra website.

London came out top, but not really by a huge margin. The worse surveyed region was the Northern area but this only dropped to 99.94%, which many might not regard as a worrying figure for last place. With a national average of 99.96%, a chief inspector of drinking water feels this figure has remained pretty much the same over the last few years and could be improved upon. The more demand for it though, the better the quality will be.

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Does tap water lead to deformed children?

August 11, 2008 at 2:27 pm

There’s always something women should or shouldn’t do when they’re pregnant. Just when women think they have it all worked out, new research carried out in Taiwan is certainly set to pour cold water over everything.

Professors in Taiwan have found a link between the chemicals formed during the chlorination of tap water and certain defects in children born to mothers exposed to these chemicals.

Trihalomethanes (or THMs for short) are not only found in tap water but in showers and swimming pools. One in every six households within the UK is said to contain higher than average levels of THMs. Conditions such as hole-in-the-heart, cleft palates and a skull deformity called anencephalus are thought to be caused by the chemicals and said to damage the baby in the womb or even the woman’s eggs in her ovaries.

The chemicals are produced at various stages in the chlorination and disinfectant processes and even water filters might not be enough to remove them. Even bottled mineral water is said to contain traces of THMs, which means nothing is safe now. One of the scientists leading the research, Professor Jouni Jaakkola, hasn’t suggested we go thirsty in the UK but just that we should be aware that if the levels of THMs rise any further then we might see a rise in deformities in babies.

Water UK, which regulates the safety of the water in the UK, isn’t getting into a paddy about it though. They are said to be taking on board the research but stressing that people should not stop drinking or showering in the UK and reaffirming that the age-old process of chlorination is tried and tested and completely safe.

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Ripple effect: new water saving initiative for British businesses

August 1, 2008 at 1:43 am

“Few businesses identify water as the raw material that is paid for twice – to receive it and to take away the waste.” Envirowise claims that water is not perceived to be a big contributor to rising company bills, in spite of being set to rise at 18% on average for five years. What is more, even though water is relatively cheaper than energy, it involves other costs such as pumping, heating and treatment.

The good news is that taking the sharply rising cost of water in hand is possible with the help of a new initiative called the Rippleffect, commencing in September. The initiative is being run by government-funded advice provider, Envirowise, and is aimed at UK businesses of any size. In particular, businesses in the food industry aiming to meet the Defra target of reducing water use by 20% by 2020 may find the Rippleffect gives them exactly the structured support that they need to achieve water efficiency.

The Rippleffect will benefit participants by helping them identify ways the business is using and wasting water. It will also provide businesses with an action plan to follow, and advice on how to measure the savings they are making.
Joining the Rippleffect before the 10th of September deadline could help businesses save about 30% on their water and effluents bills, which can increase to 50% by investing in capital.

The Rippleffect is a way of seriously improving water efficiency and gaining well-deserved environmental credentials for UK businesses.

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