Consumers in some 16,000 homes and businesses are still being advised to boil their water as a result of untreated river water getting into the supply system. The area affected is to the immediate east of Plymouth and stretches up onto Lee Moor and includes Ivybridge, Brixton, Yealmpton and the easternmost part of Plympton. Of course the South West Water website gives more detailed information and a map showing the area concerned.
So how could this incident, which we are told occurred at the water treatment works at Houndall last Thursday night, have happened? And has the water company's response been adequate? No doubt some information on the first question will be forthcoming before long but trying to get a definitive answer to the second is a difficult one. For all the advances in technology - the internet, mobile phone texting and the like, there is no way you can guarantee that those people who are potentially affected by a problem such as this will get the message prior to using the water for drinking, cleaning teeth etc. An out of date way of doing things it might seem but there is nothing to beat the good old loudhailer to alert people to a problem but even then it takes time to go round to 16,000 properties. The media will huff and puff about those affected not being in the know sufficiently quickly but logistically it's self evidently quite a nightmare to get the information out. I don't think anyone can imagine 16,000 customers being phoned but is there a system in place whereby schools, old peoples homes and hospitals can be alerted for instance?
What is most worrying is the thought that South West Water's systems still don't seem to be robust enough to prevent a situation like this happening in the first place. There is obviously anger from their customers on this issue bearing in mind the very high cost that we the public are faced with in paying our water bills.