Private water health risks hushed up

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The Independent Online
Britain's private water companies have put public health at risk on more than 500 occasions over the past six years, an inquiry by the Independent on Sunday has established, writes Geoffrey Lean. But the Government has failed to publish details of pollution incidents and has launched only four prosecutions.

The revelation comes after 325,000 homes were told to boil their water, and the row over the suppressed report on food contamination in abattoirs. The chairman of the British Medical Association warned last week that public health was moving "back into the last century".

Government figures show there have been 501 incidents that "have given rise to, or have been likely to give rise to, a significant risk to the health of water consumers in England and Wales" since water privatisation.

Michael Meacher, shadow environmental protection secretary, described the firms' policing of their own pollution as "outrageous" and vowed to "stir up" the Drinking Water Inspectorate.