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Water chiefs reviewing situation that led to ‘boil’ advice

THE Water and Sewerage Authority is considering what lessons can be learned – and what changes it can make – after exceptionally wet weather meant it was unable to guarantee the quality of our water supply last month.

A review has been carried out after the authority had to issue boil water notices due to higher than normal levels of sediment in the supply for two and a half days, from July 8 to 10.

Director of operations Mike Dewhurst said: ‘We did have a review meeting and from that meeting we are looking at lessons to be learned, any improvements that could be made and any future changes to the plant which may or may not be required.

‘There are several things we are looking at in some detail as we speak. We are in the process or reviewing all the processes and making sure that they are as good as they can be.’

The authority said incoming raw water into the Douglas Water Treatment Works was of an ‘unprecedented poor quality’. The level of sediment – dissolved organic matter, iron and manganese – washed from the hills and removed by the works, changed the chemical balance of the treatment process and affected the quality of the water going into the supply.

The authority is now considering the feasibility and cost of making some ‘minor modifications’ to the pipework at the works, in Greenfield Road.

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Mr Dewhurst said: ‘The changes would be to put in an additional bypass pipework so we could potentially waste some of the water – not put it into the supply, effectively. It would just give us more flexibility really.’

Another area being looked at was how the authority could most effectively communicate with its customers.

He said that the boil water notice was first issued in ‘unusual circumstances’ being on a Sunday.

In addition, the Public Health Directorate issued a statement to allay residents fears, saying the water had never been contaminated with sewage or any other toxic product. An original message issued by the police on behalf of the Water and Sewerage Authority suggested it was.

Mr Dewhurst said: ‘We are working with other agencies to see what technologies are available and what would be the easiest way to do that.’

Periods of heavy rainfall have continued to fall since the beginning of July, but despite that, Mr Dewhurst said there had been no further problems with water quality. ‘We are being extra vigilant to make sure everything is running well,’ he said.

Advice was issued that water should be boiled before drinking, preparing food, cleaning teeth and washing wounds. The affected areas were: Douglas, Onchan, Baldrine, Lower Laxey, Crosby, Glen Vine, Santon, Ballasalla, Castletown, Ballabeg, Colby, Arbory, Port Erin and Port St Mary.

Schools opened as usual using bottled water, while businesses in the service industry were left boiling large amounts of tap water to cater for their customers or, in the case of nursing homes, vulnerable charges.

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