United Utilities to be prosecuted over crypto crisis

Full court case will commence at the end of June

United Utilities is facing charges over a cryptosporidium outbreak which affected approximately 700,000 people in Lancashire in 2015.

The company has today (16 June) received a summons from the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI), and a full court case will be heard, commencing 30 June.

United Utilities (UU) said it has taken a “full and open role” with DWI during their investigation and “complied with all requests for information”.

However, the company has refused to comment further until after the case has been concluded.

The DWI said whilst it cannot share information or discuss the prosecution prior to the conclusion of the court case, details of the case “will be made available on request” at the conclusion of the court session.

On 6 August 2015, UU began advising customers in Preston, South Ribble, Chorley and the Fylde coast to boil their water for all drinking and eating purposes after traces of cryptosporidium were detected during routine tests at Franklaw water treatment works.

UU flushed through 2,500 miles of pipes and storage reservoirs to get rid of the cryptosporidium parasite, and deployed portable ultraviolet ray equipment kill off remaining traces.

The incident, which lasted 30 days, cost the company about £25 million in compensation pay-outs to more than 300,000 customers.

There was widespread speculation in the media that a dead pheasant caught in UU’s pipe network was the source of the outbreak. However, this has not been officially recognised by DWI.

Responding to a freedom of information request from Utility Week recently, the DWI said it was withholding the source of the contamination as “release of interim findings before the completion of an investigation would be likely to be prejudicial to the course of justice”.

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