Cornwall water poisoning criticised

15 Mar 2012

South West Water Authority has been strongly reprimanded for putting 20,000 people's lives at risk after thousands of tonnes of chemicals were dumped into the drinking water supply.

The incident, which occurred in 1988, was a "dereliction of duty" and the water authority was deemed to have been "gambling" with the lives of the people that used the water.

The company, which has since gone out of business, did not admit that the 20,000 tonnes of aluminium sulphate had been wrongly added to the water for more than a fortnight.

Coroner Michael Rose said that it was an "accident waiting to happen" to the residents of Camelford in north Cornwall.

The coroner was speaking at an inquest into the death of Carole Cross, 59, who lived close to where the incident happened.

A relief lorry mistakenly unloaded the chemicals into the wrong tank at the Lowermoor treatment works in July 1988.

The poisoning was not made public until 16 days after the incident and South West Water continued to say that the water was safe to drink.

Symptoms from drinking and bathing in the water included rashes, diarrhoea and ulcers.

Copyright Press Association 2012

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