Tap water in thousands of homes could have been contaminated with E.coli, a water company has warned.
Sutton and East Surrey (SES) Water has advised people living in parts of Kent and Surrey to boil their water as a “precautionary measure” after a routine test detected a possible outbreak of the bacteria.
The company said that water supplies at 6,500 properties “could be affected” by the bacteria, which can cause severe stomach pain, bloody diarrhoea and kidney failure in humans and animals.
Some 443 affected postcodes include homes in Oxted, Redhill, Horley, Biggin Hill and Tonbridge.
SES Water issued an update later on Friday evening saying a water sample from Westwood Water Treatment Works had tested positive for E.coli the day before, but further tests over the past 24 hours showed no signs of any contaminated water leaving the site.
Tom Kelly, the company’s wholesale director, said: “Following a positive result for E.coli from one sample at our Westwood Water Treatment Works on Thursday, we put in place a precautionary boil notice for customers whose mains water is supplied from the site – this is around 6,500 properties in and around Oxted in Surrey.
“We apologise for the inconvenience and concern this may be causing to some of our customers, but it was the right thing to do, based on the information available at the time.
“I am pleased to say that through our investigations over the last 24 hours, involving sampling and analysis of water quality throughout the area covered by the precautionary boil notice, there is no indication of contaminated water leaving the treatment works.
“We are awaiting final confirmation of this with a third set of tests within the next 24 hours but at this stage, based on the latest sampling results, we are increasingly confident we can lift the precautionary boil notice tomorrow.”
SES Water advised customers to boil water and let it cool before using it for drinking, preparing food, cleaning their teeth or giving it to pets.
The company added that once cooled, boiled water can be kept in the fridge, covered and used within 24 hours.
Most cases of E.coli infections are mild and do not cause a serious health risk, and can be resolved by drinking lots of fluids.
However, some strains can cause severe symptoms and life-threatening complications including hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can lead to kidney failure.
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