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MP calls for water boss to resign over Brixham bug

MP Anthony Mangnall (Image courtesy: Anthony Mangnall)

'It’s totally unacceptable'

A Devon MP whose constituents are at the centre of the South West Water sickness crisis has called on the water company’s chief executive to resign.

On Monday, the health secretary told the House of Commons that two people in Brixham had been hospitalised as a result of the cryptosporidium bug which got into the town’s water system. Hundreds more are ill and around 2,500 households are still being advised to boil water before drinking it.

However, SWW has now announced it will increase dividend payouts to shareholders, prompting MP Anthony Mangnall, whose Totnes constituency includes Brixham, to call on SWW chief executive Susan Davy to quit.

“You don’t issue dividends when you are in the middle of a confidence crisis,” he said. “You’ve got a crisis in the town in which people have fallen quite seriously ill.

“It’s a tin-eared approach and it’s totally unacceptable. The responsibility always lies with the head, so she should either suspend the dividend payments or step down.”

Ms Davy has apologised, saying the incident should never have happened.

At the height of the outbreak 16,000 households in and around Brixham and parts of Paignton were advised to boil their water. Hundreds of people whose supply comes from Alston and Hillhead reported suffering ‘explosive’ diarrhoea and sickness.

Tourism and hospitality businesses across Brixham are counting the cost, saying it has resulted in lost bookings ahead of the Bank Holiday weekend.

One local businessman said the opening days of the outbreak cost him thousands of pounds, and he is lobbying SWW for compensation.

Mr Mangnall said it is important to broadcast a message that Brixham is open for business.

“Brixham is bouncing back,” he said. “It has been remarkable to see the community spirit come alive, to see how quickly businesses have adapted.

“There have been horrendous problems, but the water system has been cleaned and Brixham is open for business.”

SWW has offered up to £215 to each affected household in compensation, and has been handing out free bottled water to customers.

It says it is working 24 hours a day on the issue, and has begun flushing the network to eliminate any traces of cryptosporidium. A spokesman added: “We will not lift the boil water notice in Hillhead until we and our public health partners are completely satisfied it is safe to do so.”

Mr Mangnall said the people of Brixham should not have been put in the position.

“It is not beyond the wit of man to think we should have a system that is resilient, and inspected, and routinely modernised to make sure people have got safe drinking water,” he said. “We need a quick and speedy inquiry into what has happened, and the lessons for South West Water are going to be severe.”

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