19/09/2001

Water Service moves to prevent cryptosporidium contamination

DRD Water Service has made substantial progress in implementing a series of recommendations designed to prevent a repeat outbreak of cryptosporidium in the public water supply.

The measures were outlined in a recently published report into the cryptosporidium contamination that occurred at Dunore Point water supply earlier this year.

Speaking during an Assembly debate on Tuesday 18 September, Regional Development Minister, Gregory Campbell, said that after the Dunore Point water supply had been identified as the possible cause of the cryptosporidium outbreak, he had personally commissioned an independent investigation into the incident.

Mr Campbell said: "I regard this incident with great seriousness and consider the protection of the public water supply as my highest priority. The public must have confidence that the water remains safe to drink.

"Over the next five years, up to £140 million will be invested by Water Service to provide and upgrade water treatment works to ensure effective barriers to cryptosporidium. A further £40 million has been spent on the replacement of the Mourne and Lagmore conduits to prevent ingress.

"To date, considerable progress has been made in implementing the report’s recommendations and target dates have been set for implementation at other Water Treatment Works. However, whilst the likelihood of further outbreaks is low, there can be no absolute guarantee that further incidents will not occur."

Outlining the background to the report, the Minister said that following reports of an increase in the number of cryptosporidiosis cases, the Water Service responded immediately and initiated a wide-ranging series of precautionary measures.

These included the setting up of major incident procedures and opening lines of communication with the Eastern Health and Social Services Board. Twenty-four hour continuous sampling and additional customer call handling arrangements were also introduced.

Cryptosporidiosis is a diarrhoeal illness caused by a microscopic parasite called cryptosporidium.

Cryptosporidium is present in the environment at low levels at all times, with common sources of infection including contaminated food and the public water supply. (CL)

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