South West Water have said the ban on drinking tap water in 1,500 homes around St Ives and Carbis Bay could continue at least into Thursday.
The company, who have strongly refuted suggestions on local radio that the contamination at the Steeple Service Reservoir could come from faeces, say they will not lift their precautionary “boil notice” until Wednesday afternoon at the earliest.
The company, who have been criticised by residents and one Carbis Bay councillor for their response to the incident, insist they responded quickly and effectively.
When higher levels of coliform bacteria – used to indicate contamination in the water industry – were found at the covered reservoir, they immediately informed Cornwall Council and the Drinking Water Directorate.
They also notified the on call doctor at the Health Protection Agency’s South West Acute Response Unit and then began leafleting the 1,500 homes in the area to tell them not to drink from the tap.
Staff worked throughout the night with some families confirming they had notices pushed through their door as late as 4am and 5am.
Homes around St Ives and Carbis Bay and in outlying villages like Halsetown, Cripplesease and Nancledra have now been boiling any water they use for drinking, cooking or washing food for three days.
And the water company has admitted it could well go on through Wednesday and into Thursday.
A spokesperson said that even after samples from the site returned to normal they would want “two clear days” of clean samples before lifting the ban.
While residents have reported bottled water being sold out in Tesco in Carbis Bay, others have said they have tried – and failed – to get information from the company.
One said: “We live in Carbis Bay and we still have sick water. We have contacted South West water and they are proving VERY unhelpful in telling us of when this problem will be resolved. I called them and you would have got more help from a dead fish.”
Carbis Bay Councillor Richard Glanville said South West Water’s response left a lot to be desired.
He said: : “They have screwed Cornwall for years on water rates and when they’ve got an incident like this there is a duty of care… but they don’t seem to care.
“But they get away with things and I’m sure they will get away without a fine this time.”
South West Water was the only water company in the UK to cut bills this year but customers will still pay £111 more than the national average.
The company, who put a map of the affected area on their Waterlive website, have insisted they responded quickly and effectively to the incident.
They have said affected customers will be notified when supplies return to normal.
A spokesperson said: "We apologise for the inconvenience and we are working hard to resolve the issue as rapidly as possible. All those affected will have received a notice from us by now."
Initial tests showed the reservoir water contained excessive levels of “coliform bacteria” which are used to indicate contamination.
The company believe that the contamination may have come from vegetation or soil but they said tests were still going on as the Cornishman went to print.
They have strongly refuted suggestions from other news outlets that it was from human waste.
The spokesperson said: “We are still investigating what caused this but it is more likely to be an environmental bacteria.”
She said South West Water were continuing to monitor bacteria levels at the site and would not give the all clear until tests had shown it contamination-free for two full days.
The company say they have had no reports of anyone becoming ill from drinking water in the affected area.
The spokesperson added: “We would stress this notice is precautionary advice but if customers do feel unwell then we would recommend they go to their GP.”
The guidance for those in the affected area is:
* Do not drink your water without boiling it and allowing it to cool first.
* Boil and allow to cool any water used for preparation of food (like washing salad) or in cooking food or cleaning teeth.
* It is fine to use the water for: showering, bathing, flushing the toilet, washing clothes.