Brixham residents reveal lack of contact from South West Water amid outbreak

Residents in a Devon town suffering from a waterborne disease caused by a microscopic parasite have revealed having little or no contact from South West Water (SWW).

Around 16,000 households and businesses in the Brixham area have been told not to use their tap water for drinking without boiling and cooling it first.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said on Friday that 46 cases of cryptosporidium had been confirmed in the fishing town, more than doubled from 22 on Thursday.

Brixham contaminated water
Duncan Kenny outside his shop in Brixham Harbour (Piers Mucklejohn/PA)

More than 100 further people have reported similar symptoms, and the Government agency said more cases are expected.

Duncan Kenny, co-owner of The Cove, a non-profit conservation shop in Brixham Harbour, said: “I haven’t had any contact with them (SWW). We’ve had one leaflet through the door.”

Asked if local businesses should be compensated for losses, he said: “Absolutely, yeah, if any business, of any kind, at any time, is affected by a causation that could have been prevented, that causation is responsible.”

Mr Kenny said he was “fortunate enough that I’m mobile and I can get around and get access to water”, but that others in the community – including elderly and disabled people – could not.

“There’s been talk of South West Water delivering to vulnerable people’s houses, but I’ve heard not everyone has been reached,” he added.

Barry Flack, who runs a stall selling miniature accessories by the harbour, said it had been “noticeably quiet” on Friday.

He said locals had reported illness 12 days ago, adding: “I live in Brixham and people were saying that they were all getting ill at one part of the town, whole streets, apparently.

“And they contacted South West Water and they said there was no problem with the water. But it’s the Post Office effect now – nobody believes it.

“People said they’ve been to their doctors, had their stool samples tested and they found the bug in them.”

Mr Flack said he “felt sorry” for SWW’s chief customer officer Laura Flowerdew, who “looked like a startled rabbit” after widespread coverage of the outbreak.

Brixham contaminated water
Barry Flack lives and works in Brixham (Piers Mucklejohn/PA)

Michael Smith, co-owner of the Venus Cafe near Brixham, earlier told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he had seen a 40% drop in business in the last two days and had not been contacted by SWW “in any fashion”.

He said: “During the week, at the minute we’re not super busy, but we’re losing four, five hundred pounds per day the last couple of days.

“Come the weekend, sunshine next week and the week after, we’re talking many thousands (of pounds).”

Mr Smith said the cafe only found out on Wednesday that it was in the affected area and that plans by SWW to set up a telephone helpline for businesses would not be very effective.

He added: “This parasite is not rare, it does occur annually, so they should know how to deal with it.”