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Lancashire residents told to boil water due to contamination

After a week of inconvenience, residents continue to be told to buy bottled water or to boil the water coming out of their taps. Although there are signs that the situation is getting better, the advice continues that water should be boiled. Some people were concerned that boiling water was not efficient and that only bottled water should be drunk. Public Health England has stated that boiling water is an effective method to kill the infectious agent.

The message that mains water is unsuitable for human consumption affects over 300,000 households. Reportedly some households were not alerted in good time and a number of people became sick.

Cryptosporidium is a well characterized water borne disease, caused by a parasitic single-celled microscopic animal (or protozoan.) The organism is one of the most common causes of diarrhea in humans, as well as triggering abdominal cramps. There is no treatment for the disease, with most people having to last the condition out. The best action to take is to continue to take in fluids in order to avoid dehydration.

Work is still on-going to clean-up the water plant. Chief scientific officer of the water company responsible — Martin Padley — told BBC News: “The plant that’s affected delivers 140 million litres of water a day and it’ll take some time for all that water to flush through the system.”

The main way used to remove the organism is through filtration. In extreme circumstances, chlorine dioxide disinfectant together with ozone can be used with a prolonged contact time.

The source of the contamination was traced to the Franklaw water treatment works outside the city of Preston. Investigators are trying to work out how the infection happened. The plant is operated by a private sector company called United Utilities.

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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