Scottish Water defends clean up process as safe before MSPs

Scottish Water defended its use of chloramination to ciean-up drinking water when challenged last week in the Scottish Parliament. It asserted that it was confident that the process was "safe to use."

A quarter of Scottish Water customers receive water disinfected by the process including Holyrood House, the home of the parliament.

The Petitions Committee has now passed the issue onto the parliament’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee (ECCLRC) after cold shouldering a call for a probe into the drinking water regulator. Last year the parliament’s Public Petitions Committee was petitioned over the issue. MSPs were urged to back a calling for independent research into the health implications of chloramination and a review of the role of the Drinking Water Quality Regulator.

MSPs on ECCLRC were told the process was supported by the World Health Organisation and used widely across the US, Canada, Australia and various places in Europe. ”It is one of a number of disinfection methods that we can select from and use, and it is widely acknowledged as being a suitable process” insisted Professor Robin Parsons, the company’s director of strategic customer service planning.

He added: “The science behind chloramination is really well understood. There is a huge amount of academic research, as well as research by organisations such as the drinking water quality regulator and other health boards. There is a huge amount of data and information that gives us the confidence that the process is safe for us to use".

Scottish Water chief executive, Douglas Millican, explained that much of the water delivered by the company came from upland sources which were rich in organic material which when chlorinated could result in supplies exceeding the approved standard for trihalomethanes. Chloramination – the addition of ammonium sulphate to the chlorination process – overcame that problem.

He pointed out that a study carried out last year by NHS Highland did not confirm anecdotal claims of an increase in skin complaints after chloramination.

And he told MSPs that even in in south and east Ayrshire where there had been something of a furore recently over the announcement the supply would be chlorominated, the level of concern has dwindled dramatically.

“We introduced chloramination a week past Monday, and it has taken a number of days to get right through the system. I think that, at the absolute peak, we had 20 contacts a day about issues to do with the taste or the smell of water. That figure has now dropped down to four or five a day in an area in which we serve more than 300,000 people.” He argued that was a “negligible level of inquiry”.