'It's too little and miles too late. We have been abused by the system'

A A A

You can't wave a magic wand to do away with 13 years of anxiety and impaired health, and it was perhaps unsurprising yesterday that the residents of Camelford were not convinced that the announcement of a new inquiry meant that all their troubles were suddenly over.

You can't wave a magic wand to do away with 13 years of anxiety and impaired health, and it was perhaps unsurprising yesterday that the residents of Camelford were not convinced that the announcement of a new inquiry meant that all their troubles were suddenly over.

Many were sceptical of the whole affair, feeling it would be a Whitehall whitewash as they perceive earlier investigations to have been, while others felt that only the announcement of a full judicial public inquiry would have done justice to what they see as a monstrous cover-up.

There was also a frequent note of aggrieved resentment, indicative of a group of people who have suffered both long-term nagging health problems, and the disbelief of many in authority that these are real.

And that was in those willing to talk. Many who believe themselves most seriously affected were reluctant to engage on the subject at all.

"People have not been keen about publicising their problems because they have been accused of either making it up, being slightly crazy or simply not believed," said Dave Pengelly, 43, a fisherman from nearby Boscastle, who remembers the incident clearly.

"On the morning it happened I ran the tap to make my breakfast before going out to sea," he said. "It was a mucky colour but ran clear after a while. We'd had that sort of thing before so I just drank it as normal. I didn't hear about all the problems as I was out at sea. My two children also drank it because we didn't know any better and because we were told there was nothing wrong.

"But my daughter Susan developed joint pains and I suffered skin problems, memory loss and have joint problems as well."

Mr Pengelly's joint trouble resulted in two operations to replace hips. "Of course I couldn't say for certain that the water caused my hip problems. We'll never know for certain the cause of what happened to any of us," he said.

Another man who feels what happened played a role in subsequent ill-fortune is Ray Bowler, 50, of Trebarwith Strand, who was a successful Camelford hotelier and restaurateur at the time. "I owned a 13-bedroomed hotel and two restaurants and lost them all in the wake of Camelford," he said. "Obviously there were a number of contributing factors but a lack of focus and losing all motivation was a major factor.

"I was making tea when I noticed the water was a rusty colour and tasted foul. I spat it out and the whole family started drinking bottled water but once we were told the tap water was safe I began using it again."

Mr Bowler now suffers from acute liver problems. "I am very suspicious of this latest announcement. It's too little and miles too late. People have been so abused by the legal and medical professions that residents are sceptical of anything official," he said.

Carole Wyatt, 57, a former home help, is convinced the new inquiry will be a whitewash. "I am devastated that a public inquiry is not being held," she said. "I suffered terrible stomach cramps and headaches and had numerous tests but was not allowed to see a copy of my medical records.

"Quiet by accident I eventually saw them. They showed my aluminium, copper and lead levels were way above normal, but written across my notes was a statement saying, 'Tell the patient her levels are normal'." Still suffering from memory loss, lack of balance and joint pains, Mrs Wyatt claims she was forced to accept £4,000 in compensation as an all-or- nothing payment.

"There offered me a measly £4,000, which I had to take. There has been a massive cover-up and we are still waiting for answers. I would not be surprised if things got swept under the carpet yet again," she said.

Joining her in her doubts was June Hills, 62, a former resident of Camelford who claims she still suffers from joint pain, headaches, mouth ulcers, nose sores and general exhaustion. "There are hundreds of others like me with their own horror stories to tell," she said. "The whole town would drag themselves around feeling lethargic and exhausted.

"All we have ever asked for is a full public-health inquiry ... But the news of this inquiry was given at such short notice that no one was prepared.

"People are very sceptical and have washed their hands of the affair. We are now appealing for people to come forward and say what problems they have suffered, but this will be hard because we have been accused of lying for so many years."

There was also a more sophisticated take on yesterday's announcement. Nigel Jones, 51, who lives in Camelford and is a member of the Lowermoor support group, which represents the victims, feels the Government is playing political chess. "We were also going to take our case to Europe but this inquiry may stop us doing so," he said. "The Government is trying to do what is known as time-us-out for taking our case to the European courts."

But subtler analysis or not, Mr Jones has a tale to tell of events 13 years ago like everybody else.

"On the day it happened I had a shower and was still half asleep," he said. "I couldn't get any lather with the soap and when I got out of the shower my skin rolled off on the towel. It just peeled away like sunburn. I was quite worried so I had a cup of tea. It tasted awful and then I noticed the water was pale."

Since then Mr Jones has suffered from skin and blister problems, stomach problems, bowel disorders, and a test taken two years after the contamination showed his memory had suffered a 20 per cent loss.

"It should have been a full public inquiry," he said. "That was what we wanted."

Arts and Entertainment
TVShow's twee, safe facade smashed by ice cream melting scandal
News
newsVideo for No campaign was meant to get women voting
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
News
i100
News
Down time: an employee of Google uses the slide to get to the canteen
scienceBosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Manager (infrastructure, upgrades, rollouts)

£38000 - £45000 Per Annum + excellent benefits package: Clearwater People Solu...

MI Analyst and SQL Developer (SQL, SSAS, SSRS)

£28000 - £32500 Per Annum + 28 days holiday, pension, discounts and more: Clea...

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

Reception Teachers needed for September 2014

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Re...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?