Water investigation confirms supplies safe to drink

5 December 2017

An investigation into the changes in Copeland’s drinking water earlier this year has confirmed that supplies are safe to drink.

The Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) carried out an investigation following reports of noisy “popping” kettles after United Utilities started to blend the area’s usual Ennerdale water supplies with hard water from boreholes at Egremont.

In its report published today the DWI confirmed that although some customers rejected their tap water, the supplies were safe to drink and there was no evidence that anyone was made ill as a result of the changes.

However, the report also found that United Utilities should have notified its customers in advance of making the changes to supply and it recommends that the company keeps customers informed of any future changes.

Martin Padley, Director of Water and Scientific Services at United Utilities, said: “We are very sorry for the worry and concern caused to our customers when we changed the source of their water supply without warning.

“We accept that if we had communicated this change in advance it would have saved a lot of unnecessary public concern.

“Water quality is our number one priority and customers can be assured that we will only supply water that meets the highest standards.  We have to rebuild our customers’ trust now and we have committed to keeping the public informed.”

Water supplies in Copeland were changed earlier this summer when United Utilities began to supplement water from Ennerdale with borehole water from Egremont.  The water company will not be permitted to use the Ennerdale source after 2022 in order to protect the unique ecology in the River Ehen. 

United Utilities is presently constructing a new £300 million scheme to bring soft water from Thirlmere Reservoir to West Cumbria by 2022.  The scheme involves the construction of 100km of new pipeline, a new treatment plant, two new pumping stations and two new underground service reservoirs. The Egremont boreholes are being used to reduce the reliance on Ennerdale in the meantime.

In August, United Utilities met with MP Trudy Harrison and other agencies including the Environment Agency and reached an agreement to supply a consistent blend of water classed as soft throughout the year, by using a smaller proportion of borehole water.