I read this article and was stunned at how easily mistakes happen that can kill people! This is a tragic event that certainly is a grim reminder to us all…We can’t trust local, state, or national governments to protect us from everything all the time. Utilities do the very best job that they can with the budgets that they have, but the onus is still on us as individuals to protect ourselves and our families. Minimum standards aren’t good enough for me, and they certainly shouldn’t be good enough for you!
Driver admits he ‘poisoned’ water supply to 20,000 homes
By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 8:38 AM on 2nd November 2010
A delivery driver told an inquest yesterday that he mistakenly dumped 20 tons of aluminium sulphate into the wrong tank at a water treatment works, causing Britain’s worst mass poisoning.
Relief driver John Stephens said he let himself into the Lowermoor treatment works, near Camelford, north Cornwall.
When no one from the South West Water Authority, which ran the works, turned up, he opened what he thought was the correct manhole and emptied his tank.
His error affected water supplied to about 20,000 homes, causing rashes, diarrhoea, mouth ulcers and other health problems.
The water became so polluted that customers reported hairs sticking to their bodies ‘like superglue’ as they got out of the bath, the inquest at Shire Hall, Taunton, was told.
People who rang the water authority switchboard were told the water was safe to drink and some were even advised to boil it, which increased levels of aluminium still further.
They were only told three weeks later that something had been added accidentally to the water.
The reopened inquest follows the death 16 years after the 1988 incident of Carole Cross, 59.
She had been living in Camelford at the time of the poisoning of the water.
The coroner said in 2005 that Mrs Cross had a neurological disease ‘usually associated with Alzheimer’s’.
But an ‘abnormally high level of aluminium’ in her brain may have resulted from her exposure to the metal following the incident.
At that time, the inquest was adjourned until further research was completed.
A draft report into the incident, published in 2005, said it was unlikely the chemical would have caused any persistent or delayed health effects. A committee is expected to finalise the report following the coroner’s ruling.
Mrs Cross’s husband Doug, a scientist and long-term Lowermoor campaigner, now of Cumbria, is due to give evidence on Thursday.
The inquest was adjourned until tomorrow.
In 1991, the South West Water Authority was fined £10,000 with £25,000 costs after being convicted of supplying water likely to endanger public health.