HC Deb 28 February 1989 vol 148 cc114-5W
Mr. Andrew Smith

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what action he is taking to tackle the outbreak of cryptosporidia contamination in the Thames water authority's Farmoor reservoir; if he will initiate a full inquiry into the causes of this outbreak; what action will be taken to prevent a recurrence of this outbreak; how far the levels of cryptosporidia contamination exceeded normal safety standards; and when this contamination was first discovered.

Mr. Howard

A possible link between a diarrhoea] illness called cryptosporidiosis in the Oxford and Swindon areas and the water supply from Thames water authority's Farmoor treatment works was first identified a little over a week ago.

On finding cryptosporidia organisms in the treatment works and the distribution system on 20 February, Thames Water, in conjunction with local health authorities, immediately advised the public to take certain precautionary steps including boiling water for one minute before use by young children and immuno-compromised people. The water authority took urgent steps to remove the organisms from the water and tests over the last few days indicate that there has been a substantial improvement in the water leaving the works. Thames Water cannot yet be certain that there are none of these organisms left in the water and it is, therefore, maintaining the advice to boil water for the time being.

I understand that Thames Water also proposes to undertake an independently led review at learning lessons from the experience.

I am entirely satisfied that Thames Water has behaved in a very responsible manner throughout this incident and is taking all the necessary steps.

Until 1985 there had been no confirmed connection anywhere in the world between cryptosporidiosis and water supplies. However, it is extremely difficult to detect the organism and complex new analytical techniques are only now being developed. Thames Water is in the forefront of these developments. For both these reasons, there is no routine sampling for this organism in water supplies.

Mr. Simon Coombs

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) if he will make a statement on the response of the Thames water authority to the possible threat to the public water supply in the Swindon area from the organism cryptosporidia;

(2) what information he has on routine testing by water authorities for the organism cryptosporidia in the public water supply; and if he will make a statement;

(3) what information he has on the incidence of the organism cryptosporidia, in the public water supply; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Moynihan

I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given today by my hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Water and Planning to the hon. Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith).

Forward to