Health warnings slowed summer flood recovery

Waiting for the local health authority to prepare and issue a safety warning meant that mains water was not reinstated as fast as it might have been in Gloucester in the wake of last summer's floods.

This is the conclusion of the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI), which has issued the findings of its investigation into the flooding of the city’s Mythe Water Treatment Works last July and August.

The incident effectively cut off Gloucester’s mains supply and meant that water had to be shipped in in bowsers for an extended period.

According to the DWI moves to restore the piped supply were put on hold as the water company, Severn Trent, waited for the Gloucestershire Primary Care Trust to issue public notices before carrying out the necessary work.

The DWI’s Incident Assessment Letter was published on Monday.

In announcing the findings of the investigation, the watchdog’s chief inspector of drinking water, Professor Jeni Colbourne MBE said: “My inspectors were generally satisfied with the actions taken by Severn Trent Water to reinstate the Mythe Water Treatment Works but the piped supply could have been restored more quickly and the delay was due to a decision to issue a health and safety notice prepared by the Gloucestershire PCT prior to the operation of valves to restore the water supply.”

Since the investigation, the inspectorate has been in dialogue at national level with the Health Protection Agency (HPA) and it has been agreed that the HPA and DWI will prepare and issue joint guidance on the issuing of consumer warning notices to ensure a balance is found between keeping the public informed and returning to a normal service as quickly as possible.

This guidance will support water companies and local health professionals in their decision making in any future similar incident.

Sam Bond

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