Brixham: People remain scared to drink tap water as things slowly return to normal after parasite disease outbreak

19 May 2024, 20:06 | Updated: 20 May 2024, 10:43

"I'm never drinking tap water again," Kayley Lewis says.

"My symptoms have made me lose a stone in two weeks."

Ms Lewis and her two children have been suffering from diarrhoea, vomiting and stomach cramps for over a fortnight - since South West Water found small traces of the parasite cryptosporidium in the Hillhead reservoir.

"I can't trust them [South West Water] again.

"I might start using tap water for dishes... but definitely never to drink. Ever.

"I've been completely put off now... especially because of how poorly it makes you feel.

"I just don't think I could ever try and risk going back to that."

At least 46 people are confirmed to have the disease, while as many as 70 other cases of diarrhoea and vomiting are also under investigation, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has said.

South West Water (SWW) has repeatedly apologised - telling Sky News today that they are working "around the clock" to get all households back to using safe water again.

This could be as early as this Wednesday, drought and resilience director at SWW David Harris told me.

"We're looking at somewhere between mid to late next week before we'll be in a position to be able to responsibly lift that boil water notice."

So far, 14,500 households in the Alston supply area can drink their tap water without boiling it first - as advised by SWW.

However, some 2,500 homes in Hillhead, upper parts of Brixham and Kingswear have been told to continue boiling - and cooling - their water supplies before drinking it.

Steve Price, who runs the Station Guest House B&B; near Brixham, said he lost a couple of thousand pounds in bookings due to - understandably - paranoid customers.

"Losses we anticipate are roughly around £2,000 from people that have cancelled and directly stated that the cancellation was due to the water situation.

"So we would anticipate that at the bare minimum as compensation."

Read more
Contamination 'shouldn't have happened', SWW boss says
Water firm apologises after parasite detected in reservoir
Parasite outbreak has 'destroyed' business, residents say

Mr Price has spent the afternoon emptying the B&B;'s water tanks in order to minimise the risk to his guests.

"In terms of money - we're just flushing it away!

"A couple of hundred pounds worth. But this supply feeds the showers, sinks and bathrooms.

"It needs to be completely emptied and cleaned to avoid risks".

Mr Price's business isn't the only one suffering.

It's a bleak picture across the neighbouring towns.

This time of year Brixham is usually buzzing with holidaymakers - especially by the harbour side.

The past week, however, has been another story.

"It's a ghost town", Sally Tollon, an employee at a local chippy tells me.

"We're really quiet... you can see it's empty, because people are frightened to come down because of the water situation.

"On average we make a thousand pounds a day. Yesterday we did half of that."

Despite things slowly getting back to normal, people are scared.

They have lost faith and trust in a water supply - one woman told me - they had "always taken for granted".

It's clear rebuilding the community's trust and confidence in their water supplier will take some time in the coming weeks and months.