Report identifies action to reduce water risks after crypto outbreak in Glasgow

A report into last year's waterborne cryptosporidium outbreak in Glasgow recommends modernizing the water supply infrastructure and improvements to incident management arrangements.

Feb. 27, 2003 -- A report into last year's incident when cryptosporidium was found in Glasgow's public water supply recommends modernizing the water supply infrastructure serving the city and improvements to incident management arrangements.

Environment Minister Ross Finnie welcomed progress in managing the potential risk posed by cryptosporidium in water.

Incidents in both Edinburgh and Glasgow last year led Ministers to identified a series of actions to reduce the risk to public health.

The report of Glasgow's Incident Management Team, published today, coincided with a report by the Water Industry Commissioner, also published today, which focuses on improving management and preparedness, in particular the need for effective communication with water customers.

Mr Finnie said:

"While many of the recommendations put forward by the Ad-Hoc Ministerial Group on Public Health and Water Supplies have already been implemented, the reports published today highlight some significant issues.

"The need to improve the incident management framework was recognised as a key issue by the Ad-Hoc Ministerial Group on Public Health and Water Supplies, a view confirmed by the reports from the Incident Management Team and the Water Industry Commissioner.

"Significant steps forward have already been made through publication of the Executive's new public health guidance and completion of the new waterborne hazard plan by Scottish Water, NHS Boards and their partners.

"The Ad-Hoc Group also identified the need for effective follow up of recommendations and I welcome the fact that the IMT report has been agreed by all the key agencies.

"Scottish Water has committed itself to making improvements to infrastructure and customer service arangements. Effective communication with Scottish Water's customers is vital and we welcome progress made in this area. We expect Scottish Water to urgently implement action required to reduce risks from the aquaducts serving Glasgow.

Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm stressed the Executive's commitment to effective follow-up of recommendations from the incident management team.

"The Executive has already recognised the need to ensure that recommendations of IMT reports are effectively followed up. We recently issued guidance to NHS Boards requiring them to seek formal responses from agencies identified in the reports and giving them responsibility for drawing up an action plan to follow up the recommendations."

The IMT report makes clear that, until the Glasgow supply is modernised, there will remain a risk of incidents of this type.

The Executive cannot comment on Scottish Water's planning application for a new water treatment works at Milngavie, but has made clear to Scottish Water that they expect interim aqueduct repairs need to be taken forward quickly.

Scottish Water is publishing a report on actions they have taken since the incident to improve infrastructure and incident preparedness. It is available from their website at

A summary of the status of recommendations from the Ad-Hoc Ministerial Group on Public Health and Water Supplies follows.

Implementation of Actions from the Ad-Hoc Ministerial Group on Public Health and Water Supplies

Recommendation 1: Development of Guidance on Public Health Action following detection of raised levels of cryptosporidium in Public Drinking Water Supplies

This guidance was published on January 10, 2003. It is based on advice from the Expert Group led by Professor Bouchier, which the Executive published on November 5, 2002.

Recommendation 2: Review of Implementation of Cryptosporidium Direction

A comprehensive report on implementation of the Direction by the Drinking Water Quality Regulator was published on January 10, 2003.

The Executive is now preparing a revision to the Cryptosporidium direction to incorporate a number of recommendations from the review.

Recommendation 3: Review of the Accuracy of Information held about Water Distribution Networks

Scottish Water is publishing a summary of progress in implementing this recommendation as part of a wider report on actions it has taken in response to the incidents. This will be published on 21 February (see note 3).

Recommendation 4: Development of an All-Scotland Waterborne Hazard Incident Plan

The Plan is complete and is being issued for consultation to partner organisations by Scottish Water on 21 February. It incorporates many of the recommendations from the Incident Control Team (ICT) reports and has been prepared in co-operation with representatives from a range of partners, notably NHS Boards, Local Authorities, the Scottish Centre for Infection and Environmental Health (SCIEH) and the Police.

Recommendation 5: Revision of Guidance on Roles and Responsibilities of Incident and Outbreak Control Teams (ICTs and OCTs)

Revised guidance was published on January 30, 2003. It incorporates lessons learned from the cryptosporidium incidents, as well as other recent public health incidents. It also updates arrangements for dealing with a range of risks that have received higher prominence because of the current security climate.

Recommendation 6: Follow-up of Recommendations made by Outbreak and Incident Control Teams

More robust arrangements for following up actions from ICT and OCT reports are included in the guidance issued under recommendation 5. NHS Boards, who lead in writing ICT reports, are now expected to send the report to all agencies seeking a formal response to the recommendations, and then to draw up an action plan. Recommendations which the NHS Board or ICT member organisations cannot take forward themselves should be formally passed to the Executive for action.

Recommendation 7: Development of Protocols on Good Practice in Risk Assessment and Communication in Public Health

The guidance published under recommendations 1 and 5 includes guidance on risk identification, management and communication. The risk communication approach is based on a presumption in favour of openness.

On a broader front, risk assessment, management and communication were identified as areas that require to be strengthened in the Executive's recent consultation Health Protection in Scotland. The responses to the consultation are currently being analysed.

Recommendation 8: General Review of Scottish Executive arrangements for responding to Public Health Incidents

The Chief Medical Officer has completed his review. It was an exercise to ensure that lessons learned from the cryptosporidium incidents were picked up in the wider arrangements for addressing public health incidents. The new guidance produced in response to recommendation 5 reflects the conclusions of the review.

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