South West Water: Brixham Contamination

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons am ar 20 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Anthony Mangnall Anthony Mangnall Ceidwadwyr, Totnes

Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question.

I thank the Secretary of State and the Minister with responsibility for rivers, the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend Robbie Moore, for their extraordinary co-operation over the past week. I have wanted for nothing from them, and they have done an extraordinary job. I thank them and their team for being on hand at a moment’s notice to liaise with me and with the local organisations in my constituency and that of my hon. Friend Kevin Foster.

In Brixham the anger is palpable, the frustration is apparent and the sheer inconvenience that has been put on residents by South West Water is absolutely abhorrent. I have spent the past week and weekend delivering leaflets that South West Water should have been delivering —it has failed to update residents on the situation before them. I have spoken with residents and businesses about compensation and the reputational damage suffered by Brixham, one of this country’s finest coastal communities.

Last week, South West Water was accused of making people ill, not by an organisation, but by Tanya Matthews in a Facebook post. That post received 1,200 responses in which people identified common symptoms, yet South West Water did nothing. For 24 hours, people were still able to drink the water and South West Water continued to say that there was no problem. The reason 46 people are ill—and that is most certainly an underestimation—is the time period in which they were able to go on drinking the water.

Of course, it is welcome news that the Alstom reservoir has been cleared and independent monitoring and verification has been undertaken by the UK Health Security Agency and the Drinking Water Inspectorate, but it is still wholly unacceptable that the 8,000 residents in the Hillhead reservoir area are still dependent on bottled water and cannot trust their water systems. In the 21st century, that is a totally unacceptable position for us to be in. South West Water and its management carry the responsibility for it.

I welcome the fact that we have three drinking water stations in Churston, Broadsands and Freshwater Quarry, and that 500,000 bottles have distributed—the teams on the ground have done an extraordinary job, and we should applaud them—but I have four questions for the Secretary of State. Can UKHSA and the DWI continue to provide independent monitoring over the coming weeks and months to ensure that there is confidence in the drinking water supply? Will there be an investigation into South West Water’s handling of this matter? Why, when the compensation is being upgraded, are people still paying their water bills? Finally, the damaged reputation suffered by businesses and the community of Brixham needs to be addressed, so will the Secretary of State hold South West Water to account?