Water poisoning report ‘flawed’

28 12 2007

A recent report into Britain’s worst case of water poisoning has been criticised by members of the investigating committee. The report by the Committee on Toxicity Lowermoor Sub-Group into the medical effects of the incident will be subsequently reviewed.

The incident in question occurred in 1988 when twenty tonnes of aluminium sulphate was delivered into the wrong tank at a water treatment works at Lowermoor on the edge of Bodmin Moor. People affected reported a range of health issues from brain damage and memory loss to joint problems, The report did not find a conclusive link between these illnesses and the incident. However, several recent deaths are thought to be attributed to the incident and the ill-effects it caused.

Local representatives on the committee, homeopath Peter Smith and environmental scientist Doug Cross, have said that: “Recent deaths of people exposed to the aluminium-contaminated water have called into question some of the conclusions of the committee” and have appealed to the Prime Minister for a review of the case. Mr Cross’s 58-year old wife Carole, who lived in Camelford at the time of the pollution, died in 2004 and an autopsy revealed abnormally high levels of aluminium in her brain. She suffered from a neurological disease. Irene Neal, 91, whose home was served by the Camelford water system, died in a nursing home in Buckfastleigh, south Devon, in June, and a brain autopsy carried out revealed an “unacceptable amount of aluminium in the brain”. Their views are supported by an article in the British Medical Journal, published in 1999, which said it was “highly probable” that aluminium poisoning did cause brain damage in some people.

After a trial at Exeter Crown Court in 1991, the South West Water Authority was fined £10,000 and £25,000 in court costs for supplying water likely to endanger public health. Three years later, 148 victims of the incident reached an out of court settlement, with payments ranging from £680 to £10,000.

In my opinion the water company got off very lightly for what I believe was negligence which ultimately caused ill health and death in a community.

Lowermoor works

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/cornwall/7137973.stm (11th December 2007)


‘Sickness bug in army water supply’

28 12 2007

Water supplied by C2C Services, part of Severn Trent Water, has been found to be contaminated with traces of the cryptosporidium parasite, which can cause vomiting and diarrhoea. The contaminated water is supplied to army staff and civilians at Catterick Garrison in North Yorkshire. All personnel within the military area and 2,000 commercial and residential properties outside the area are affected.

An MoD spokesman said: “As a result of routine testing, traces of the parasite cryptosporidium, a tiny organism, have been detected in the water supply to Catterick Garrison. The water therefore does not meet required standard’. Health concerns lead to the closure of four schools in the Catterick area, although two other schools remained open. The MoD and health officials advised everyone within the affected area to boil all water used for drinking, cleaning teeth and food preparation. Once boiled the water is safe to drink, although people were advised to contact their GP if they felt unwell. The MoD spokeswoman went on to reassure people that they were doing everything possible to restore the ‘quality of the water supply‘ and that people would be informed as soon as it was safe to drink without boiling.

Yorkshire Water, which also supplies the Catterick area, issued a statement saying their water was not contaminated and did not require boiling before use, although many people were still cautious.

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/north_yorkshire/7138676.stm

(11th December 2007)

‘Disaster in Black Sea as storm sinks tanker’

14 11 2007

A storm struck 10 ships in the Strait of Kerch, which links the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, sinking a Russian oil tanker, the Volganeft-139 and causing widespread environmental damage in The Black Sea region. Although most of the crew were rescued, five seamen were killed and 18 are still missing. The Volganeft-139 split in two and spilled at least 1300 tonnes of oil into the water. The severe weather prevented emergency workers from collecting the oil, which authorities said was sinking to the seabed. Another storm in the area is forecast, prompting a ban on tankers docking at the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk.

The environmental destruction has been severe. Birds covered in thick oil are being recovered on the shore and biodiversity is being reduced. Vladimir Chuprov, head of the energy department at Greenpeace, told the RIA Novosti news agency: “As a result of the oil spill into the sea, heavy elements of fuel oil will settle on the seabed and cause hydrocarbons to permeate the Sea of Azov. This will lead to a shortage of oxygen in the water, and the unique fauna will suffer greatly.”

Two of the other freighters that sank were carrying around 6500 tonnes of sulphur, the Russian emergency situations ministry said. Sergei Baranovsky, the president of the Green Cross environmental group, said sulphur could potentially be more hazardous to the environment than the oil.


Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2007/nov/12/pollution.russia?gusrc=rss (Nov 12th 2007)

‘Fight for water puts fish in peril’

7 11 2007

A seven year study has shown that nearly 40 per cent of freshwater fish in Britain and Europe face extinction and during the research 12 species have become extinct. The research, carried out with the World Conservation Union (IUCN) was carried out by Maurice Kottelat, a former president of the European Ichthyological Society, and Jörg Freyhof, of the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology in Germany. The survey found that out of the 58 freshwater species found in Britain, 22 are under threat of extinction, including the golden charr and gwyniad. Species described as ’critically endangered’ include jarabugos in Spain and Portugal, and gizani in Greece. The study also looked at eels, which are categorised as ‘critically endangered’ after their numbers have decreased by about 95% since 1980.

Changes in water temperature, volume and composition, partly due to climate change and human activity. ‘Freshwater fish stocks across Europe have plummeted primarily because so much water has been diverted for human use, leaving many rivers and streams dry for much of the year. Pollution, overfishing and the introduction of alien species and diseases wreaked further havoc on fish populations over the past century’.

The researchers were shocked at just how dire the situation seemed to be. William Darwell of the (IUCN) claims “The freshwater ecosystem is probably more threatened than any of the others” and that action must be taken immediately before the effects are irreversible. They think fish should be valued as an ecological asset rather than an economic or agricultural crop.


 Source http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article2789667.ece (November 2nd 2007)

‘Welsh water company fined for polluting river’

24 10 2007

Dwr Cymru Welsh Water, a water treatment plant in Wakes has been charged and fined after it was found to be responsible for pumping untreated sewage into the River Cynon, resulting in the death of over 1800 fish, mostly trout. The Environment Agency forced the company to bring in independent contractors to oversee the blocking of the sewage flow and the return of the river to acceptable safety standards. Claiming that the contamination was due to a technical fault in the plant, Dwr Cymru Welsh Water pleaded guilty in court to contaminating the river with raw sewage. They were found to have broken Section Four of the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975 and Section 85 of the Water Resources Act 1991 and were subsequently fined £10,000 and had to pay £4,420 in court costs. Joseph Barr, the Environment Agency Officer working on the case says that the fine will be used to restock the fish population and help minimise the environmental damage caused by the company. Barr also hopes that it will act as an example to others and ’will lead to improvements being made to prevent any further incidents of this nature’.
Unfortunately such incidents are common in Wales and elsewhere. In September 2003, Dwr Cymru Welsh Water were fined £12,500 for polluting the River Clyne and killing over 3000 fish, and in July 2007 they were fined yet again, this time for polluting a river near Wrexham.

http://www.water-guide.org.uk/blog-welsh-water-company-fined-for-polluting-river-82.html (2/10/07)

‘Thames users at risk from untreated sewage’

24 10 2007

Tests conducted on the most used stretch of the River Thames, that which flows through Kew, Putney and Barnes, have shown the presence of high levels of bacteria and viruses. These pathogens can cause infections such as gastroenteritis and lead to nausea, diarrhoea or abdominal pain. Although only 18 people out of about 1200 leisure users have reported such symptoms, health experts believe there are many unreported cases. Large numbers of people use the river for recreational activities such as rowing, canoeing and fishing, and so the health risk to the public is high and imminent. Visitors who have built no immunity to the pathogens are most at risk, as are children and the elderly. Dr Susanne Surman-Lee, of the government’s Health Protection Agency, advises that people should ‘wash their hands regularly after using the river, particularly before eating or drinking, and try not to swallow any water if they should fall in’. With the approach of the 2012 Olympics, health agencies have warned competitors not to train on the river. As well as putting human health at risk, the pollutants also kill plants and fish, reduce biodiversity and decrease the aesthetic and general quality of the water.

The contamination seems to be the result of a discharge of untreated sewage into the river following heavy rainfall. When treatment works are unable to cope with excess surface water, such as after heavy rain, water is discharged, unfortunately along with untreated sewage. Recreational users of the river are thought to be at risk of infection for three or four days after such heavy rainfall. Some believe that climate change and the associated unpredictable weather will lead to increased pollution of this kind. Jenny Bates, the London campaigns co-ordinator for Friends of the Earth, says ‘the solution is for the Thames interceptor tunnel to be built urgently and for the government to introduce a strong climate change bill’.


http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2007/sep/27/pollution.uknews (27/9/07)