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)

‘Insurance ban for flood-risk homes’

2 12 2007

The risk of flooding to homes and businesses in the UK is increasing and climate change is likely to lead to an increase in river, sea and drainage flooding. In a bid to limit the flood damage to housing, the chief executive of the Environment Agency, Baroness Young, has suggested that homes built on flood plains against official advice should be refused insurance. Last year 13 ‘major developments’, including housing estates and a holiday park, were given planning permission despite being categorised as a flood risk area. This proposal would also affect government plans for 3 million new homes, up to one third of which, experts say, could be built on flood plains. In a televised interview, expert Barbara Young called on insurers to help protect properties against flooding – ‘We’d like the insurance companies to be tougher and to simply refuse to insure properties built on the flood plain against our advice.’

Dispatches revealed a leaked document from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in which officials admitted in June 2006 that flood defences were ‘severely rationed’ or turned down. The programme also found that since 2004 there have been six other major safety incidents at dams in Britain and 40 other dams have been threatened with prosecution over safety issues. The programme claims that 2,500 families affected by this summer’s floods are still living in temporary accommodation because of delays in getting insurance and repair works completed. The Association of British Insurers told Dispatches: ‘When dealing with such a huge number of claims some problems may arise. Insurers try to resolve these as quickly as possible. The industry has pledged to continue to offer flood insurance to all existing customers, providing there are adequate flood defences in place. For new customers individual insurers will decide if they are able to offer flood cover.’

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2007/dec/02/climatechange.householdbills?gusrc=rss (2/12/07)

‘Flood report blames water company’

22 11 2007

A report commissioned by Hull City Council has blamed Yorkshire Water for the severity of the summer floods in 2007. The report claims that the water company ignored warnings from as early as 1996 and failed to correct technical issues, leading to the failure of Hull’s drainage system and the subsequent flooding of more than 8,600 homes, 1,300 businesses and 90 across Hull. The inability of the pump to remove water meant that more homes suffered more extensive and prolonged flooding and thus more severe damage. If action had been taken years ago then the June 2007 floods may not have caused so much devastation. Yorkshire Water responded by saying that no drainage system could have coped with the waters and that “The issue is not about building bigger pumps, but of the capacity of the drains and the sewers to cope with the intensity and concentration of the rainfall in these extreme weather events”.

The report predicts future flooding problems in the area, saying that “Until a permanent solution is built, Hull is served by an under-capacity, sub-standard system helped out by two 40-year-old pumping stations.” The report recommends that the pumping station should be modernised and its capacity increased, and although Yorkshire Water plans to invest in and improve the infrastructure, for many this is too little too later. Yorkshire Water is also accused of ‘repeatedly overestimating the capacity of its equipment to deal with heavy rain’ contributing to thousands of pounds worth of damage to properties thought to be safe from flooding. The company are said to be disappointed that the report focused on their problems rather than promoting co-operation in overcoming climate change and the flooding risk it poses to Hull.

Flooding in Hull - June 2007

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/humber/7104996.stm (November 21st 07)

‘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)

‘Tidal surge sweeps past east coast of England’

14 11 2007

The biggest tidal surge in over 50 years threatened the coastline of East Anglia, along the east coast of England, leading to severe flood risks. Up to 7500 people were evacuated from their homes after the Environment Agency gave warning of “extreme danger to life and property” in coastal areas of Norfolk and Suffolk. Water levels reached their highest, 2.75m, between 7am and 8am, although the prediction had estimated a peak of 30cm higher. There were no injuries or deaths, unlike a similar event in 1953 in which 300 people died. There wasn’t even any flooding to properties reported and some people even took advantage of the wave and spent the day surfing. However, hundreds faced upheaval and uncertainty, and the temporary housing in local schools and other public buildings left many with inadequate shelter and food. Many schools were closed for the day and roads and rail links were shut. Officials said there had been no reports of flood defences being broken although there had been some flooding of coastal roads because of the height of the waves.

‘Temporary flood barriers were fitted during the night around an electricity substation in Great Yarmouth to protect power supplies’ and the Dartford Creek and Thames barriers were closed to prevent widespread flooding. Gordon Brown said the Government was standing ready to help any local communities affected by the tidal surge – “Our first priority is to ensure people are safe, and that’s why over the course of yesterday and throughout the night we have been bringing in the helicopters, the sandbags, the preparations that are absolutely necessary so that people are safe”.

Related links

Q&A: flood insurance

Thousands evacuate ahead of storm surge

Pictures: UK floods

Source: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article2839078.ece (November 9, 2007)

‘Dubai faces higher utility bills as costs and demand escalate’

7 11 2007

The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) has estimated that Dubai will need to spend £9 billion over the next five years to keep its lights on and fresh water flowing. Rapidly increasing demand for utilities and increased costs in the city-state mean businesses and households in Dubai face this price increase, the first utility bill increase for a decade. Dubai’s has an expected 10 per cent annual population growth, which will put pressure on already limited resources. According to a prospectus released by Dewa, demand for power and water will increase by 20 per cent a year in Dubai, which will cause shortages unless action is taken now to prevent such problems. Dewa want to raise tariffs to meet the cost of more expensive natural gas, fuel oil and water. The prospectus states: “Dewa is seeking government approval for an increase in electricity and water tariffs in the future across all customers as a whole.” Such price increases have been met with public opposition even though the costs are generally far lower than they are in Britain and Europe.

Source: http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/utilities/article2813874.eceNovember 6th 2007