How does boiling drinking water help? Water boss apologises for parasite outbreak in Devon

Viruses might make water unsafe to drink (PA Wire)
Viruses might make water unsafe to drink (PA Wire)

The chief executive of South West Water has said she is sorry for an outbreak of cryptosporidium in south Devon.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) confirmed 22 cases of cryptosporidium, a waterborne disease caused by a microscopic parasite, in Brixham on Wednesday.

South West Water said it believed it had located the source where the parasite could have entered the water network.

Susan Davy said: “Our ground technicians have been working around the clock to identify the source of the contamination and rectify the situation so we can resume a normal water supply. To those in the affected area and our customers across the South West, I am truly sorry for the disruption and wider anxiety this has caused.

“While incidents like these are thankfully very rare, our customers expect a safe, clean and reliable source of drinking water.”

A professor has said that cases of cryptosporidium will be seen in Brixham for at least the next 10 days.

South West Water has set up two bottled water collection points for the public. It continues to deliver bottled water to people that need it.

Customers will be given £100 back from South West Water.

Boiling water can help remove germs from it (William Mata)
Boiling water can help remove germs from it (William Mata)

What does boiling water do to it?

South West Water has issued the notice to 16,000 households and businesses, asking them to boil water and then leave it to cool before drinking it or using it to wash.

Boiled water can be stored in a covered container in the fridge for up to 24 hours.

Boiling is sufficient to kill pathogenic bacteria, viruses and protozoa, according to USDA.

It is a technique commonly used in countries where the quality of water can be a concern.

What is cryptosporidium?

Cryptosporidium is a parasite that causes an infection called Cryptosporidiosis, says the NHS.

It is found in lakes, streams and rivers, untreated drinking water and sometimes in swimming pools. For most people, it is unpleasant and causes symptoms such as watery diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach pains and fever.

It can be a serious illness for anyone who has a weakened immune system.

How else can you sterilise water for drinking?

There are several other options listed by the NHS.

Chemical disinfectants such as chlorine dioxide can be bought in liquid or tablet form and can be used to kill germs.

Another option is UV light which can operate from a portable, battery-operated device, which can deliver measured and timed doses of the ray.

Salt electrolysis works, the NHS says, by using a hand-held battery-powered product, which passes an electrical current through a solution of salt and water. This can work against all germs apart from cyclospora.

Lastly, there is water filtration, which can remove some but not all germs from water.