United Utilities fined £300,000 for supplying contaminated water

Lessons can be learned by the water industry as a whole following the prosecution of United Utilities for supplying water contaminated with cryptosporidium, says the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater).

United Utilities was fined £300,000 and ordered to pay £150,000 in costs yesterday (10 October) after previously admitting to supplying water unfit for human consumption to more than 700,000 consumers in Lancashire in summer 2015.

Preston Crown Court heard that the microbial parasite, which can cause diarrhoea, vomiting and stomach cramps, got into treated water stored in an underground reservoir near Garstang. The water company had not carried out a risk assessment before putting the water into the supply.

When the contamination was discovered, United Utilities imposed a boil water notice on more than 300,000 households and businesses in the affected area. It has since paid more than £18 million in compensation for the disruption and inconvenience caused to customers.

Robert Light, Northern Region Chair for the Consumer Council for Water, said:

We are disappointed that serious failings by United Utilities led to such significant disruption to their customers. The company must now rebuild trust with its customers by explaining what it is doing to prevent any similar incident happening again. We will be closely monitoring them to ensure all recommendations from this incident are already or will swiftly be implemented.

Robert Light said the case had lessons for all water companies, not just United Utilities. He added:

We expect every water company to consider the findings of the Drinking Water Inspectorate’s report and address any relevant recommendations swiftly to ensure any potential risk to customers is reduced. As the water customer watchdog we will ensure that this is the case.

We welcome United Utilities’ offer to share all the issues from this incident with other companies and will work with them to ensure this happens.

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