By Seren Nurgun, Staff Writer for Save The Water™ | November 14, 2015
United Utilities, a large water and sewage service provider in England, was ordered to compensate its customers who were sent contaminated water around early August. After having to boil water for a month, affected residents and business owners were happy to hear of a reimbursement plan. United Utilities was issued to pay £25M (Wallace), roughly $38,326,250.00 (based on the currency conversion rate as of October 20, 2015). Checks of £50 and £60 were mailed out to 300,000 households, comprising 10% of the company’s customers.
Awareness of the presence of a cryptosporidium microbial parasite occurred when traces were identified in one of United Utilities’ many water treatment plants in Preston, England, which mainly affected parts of the Lancashire region. According to their estimates, about 2,500 miles of pipeline were contaminated.
As an example of the scope of the cryptosporidium parasite, according to Hu et al., it was strongly linked to the wrongful disposal of pig carcasses in a drinking water source in China from March 2013 to 2014. Occurrence rates of cryptosporidium were significantly higher in samples collected immediately following the illegal disposal than they were after 6 or 7 months, leading the research team to conclude that cryptosporidium was directly related to the presence of decomposing pig meat in that water source.
In addition, “cryptosporidium is a protozoan parasite of medical and veterinary importance that causes gastroenteritis in a variety of vertebrate hosts” (Bouzid et al.). Once ingested, the parasite can cause “diarrhea, stomach pain, dehydration, nausea, vomiting, fever, and weight loss” (“Parasites”). To test infection, the common methods are fecal or blood analysis. In an infected individual with a strong immune system, treatment is unnecessary because the parasite eventually succumbs to the human immune system. However, in an infected individual with a weakened immune system, there is “a higher risk for more severe and prolonged illness” (“Parasites”). Therefore, it is a good idea to be preventative by maintaining good personal hygiene, avoiding water that might be contaminated, and practicing extra caution while traveling (“Parasites”).
According to United Utilities, the company quickly “deployed extensive additional resources” (Wallace) to mediate the contamination. The company brought in special rigs to eliminate the remaining cryptosporidium contamination. Within weeks, United Utilities tested the water supply daily to track progress and reduce the likelihood of a recurrence. In early September, full water and sewage service was restored. Due to the significant cost and threat to safety, United Utilities will most likely monitor their water treatment processes closely in order to avoid similar future occurrences.
Bouzid, Maha, Paul R. Hunter, Rachel M. Chalmers, and Kevin M. Tyler. “Cryptosporidium Pathogenicity and Virulence.” Clinical Microbiology Reviews 26.1 (2013): 115-34. Print.
Hu, Yue, Yaoyu Feng, Chengchen Huang, and Lihua Xiao. “Occurrence, Source, and Human Infection Potential of Cryptosporidium and Enterocytozoon Bieneusi in Drinking Source Water in Shanghai, China, during a Pig Carcass Disposal Incident.” Environmental Science & Technology Environ. Sci. Technol. 48.24 (2014): 14219-4227. Print.
“Parasites – Cryptosporidium (also Known as “Crypto”).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 Feb. 2015. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.
“United Utilities Confirms Lancashire Water Alert to Last Several Days.” BBC News. BBC, 27 Aug. 2015. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.
Wallace, Tim. “Lancashire Water Contamination Scandal Costs United Utilities £25m.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 23 Sept. 2015. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.