Do not drink water in North Uist

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Households and businesses in part of North Uist are being advised not to drink or cook with tap water with immediate effect following the detection of raised levels of aluminium in water samples at the local water treatment works.

The advice has been issued for around 450 properties by an Incident Management Team (IMT), chaired by the Consultant in Public Health Medicine (CPHM) at NHS Highland, after consistently raised aluminium levels were detected at the Bayhead Water Treatment Works which supplies the area.

Householders and businesses in the affected areas should not use tap water for any drinking or food preparation purpose until further notice. This is a precautionary measure only.

The areas affected are from Scolpaig to Grimsay on the West coast of North Uist. Water supplied by our other treatment works at Lochmaddy and Benbecula are not affected. Dr Ken Oates, CPHM, said: “We appreciate the inconvenience this advice will bring to people and businesses in the affected areas, but at all times our priority has to be the protection of public health. “We would like to emphasise that this is a precautionary measure and that there is no evidence that anyone has consumed water which may have caused them adverse health effects due to the consumption of aluminium.

“Any acute health effects from aluminium consumption are extremely unlikely. Longer term effects would only occur after consumption of very high levels over a very prolonged period of time and that is why this precautionary action has been taken at this early stage to avoid any possibility of that occurring.

“The IMT, which comprises representatives from NHS Highland, NHS Western Isles, Western Isles Council and Scottish Water, is continuing to monitor the situation and further updates will be communicated to the public.”

Scottish Water is arranging supplies of bottled water to the areas affected, initially giving priority to customers who require additional support and then continuing provision to the rest of the community.

Simon Harrison, Water Operations Manger, Scottish Water, said: “We have a team who are working around the clock at Bayhead WTW to reduce the aluminium levels. An issue with the raw water colour, together with the treatment process has caused them to rise slightly higher and as a precaution we are advising customers to only use the water for washing and flushing the toilet.

We will be delivering all customers with packs of bottled water this evening which will be left on their doorsteps.

“We have some additional supplies at five locations on the island as follows: Balranald Church HS6 5DW; The Old Church, Carnish HS6 5EJ; The Bayhead Shop HS6 5DS; Clachan Stores HS6 5HD and Ardnasgruban Post Box, Grimsay HS6 5HT. These will be continually replenished.

“Not all properties on North Uist are affected – customers who are affected will also receive a notice posted through their doors informing them of the decision. A full list of the affected postcodes is available at www.scottishwater.co.uk – click on ‘Current service updates’ and the list is there, and is also available at the end of press release.

“We apologise for any inconvenience to our customers in North Uist as a result of these issues at Bayhead WTW. We will restore normal supplies as soon as possible.”

The advice from the IMT is that water should not be used for drinking, food preparation, making babies’ feeds, brushing teeth or for pets. Drinks and ice dispensing machines should also be avoided as these may be connected to the mains supply. However, in the affected area, water can still be used for washing clothes, baths and showers and for flushing toilets.

Customers with any questions can call the Scottish Water Customer Contact Centre on 0845 601 8855.

Alternatively email customerservice@scottishwater.co.uk