United fined £300,000 for cryptosporidium incident at treatment works

United Utilities has been sentenced by the Crown Court to pay a fine of £300,000 with costs of £150,000 for an incident in 2015 in which the company admitted supplying water unfit for human consumption.

The Consumer Council for Water said “lessons can be learned by the water industry as a whole,” following United’s sentencing at Preston Crown Court.

The incident at United’s Franklaw treatment works resulted in animal waste entering an underground tank, contaminating the water with a bacterium, cryptosporidium, which can cause diarrhoea. The court heard there had been illness attributed to the contamination.

Up to 700,000 people were left unable to drink tap water for three weeks following the incident. United Utilities imposed a boil water notice on more than 300,000 households and businesses in the affected area. It has since paid more than £18 million in compensation for the disruption and inconvenience caused to customers.

The Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI), which brought the prosecution, said United had failed "to take appropriate and rapid action to protect consumers when the contamination was known". DWI’s chief inspector, Marcus Rink said United Utilities had failed to follow nationally recognised good practice.

United chief executive officer, Steve Mogford was reported in national newspapers saying: ”We have learned valuable lessons from what happened and have put technology and processes in place to guard against a repeat of this type of incident.”

The company is understood to have installed ultraviolet sterilisation systems in the Franklaw region as part off some £7m spent on preventative improvements.