There have been very concerning reports recently that water contaminated with perflurooctane sulphonate (PFOS) has been supplied to over 1000 homes by Cambridge Water in the Stapleford and Great Shelford area.
PFOS, coming from a wider group of chemicals known as polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), has been linked to kidney and testicular cancers, diseases involving the thyroid gland, type 2 diabetes and serious issues linked to pregnancy (including miscarriage, premature birth and low birth weight).
PFOS by its very nature was designed to not break down like other compounds, so exposure to PFOS can mean that it stays in your body for many years. Increased exposure increases the risk that you will suffer a health complication linked to PFOS. Illnesses and disease linked to PFOS are not usually immediate, but rather can take a number of years to manifest from initial exposure.
Shockingly, Cambridge Water failed to notify customers who had been supplied contaminated water about what had happened. Had the Guardian failed to publish its story, many customers would not have known about what had happened and the potential future risk to their health. So far, Cambridge Water have failed to provide full disclosure regarding the length of time that customers were exposed to PFOS which will doubt add to the distress caused to those who have been supplied with the contaminated water.
If you have been affected by the Cambridge Water scandal, then you will no doubt be deeply concerned about what has happened and there are a number of steps that you can take to ensure that the incident is properly investigated.
Make a complaint to Cambridge Water
The first step you should take is to make a complaint directly to Cambridge Water by following their complaints procedure. You should write a letter to them detailing all of the facts regarding what has happened and how you have been affected by it. In accordance with Cambridge Water’s Guaranteed Standard of Service, the aim to respond to complaints within 10 working days. If they do not respond or you are not happy with the response that you have received, you have a number of other avenues you can go down to have your concerns investigated which can be seen later in this article.
Should Cambridge Water uphold your complaint, there are a number of things that they may do to provide you with redress for your complaint, such as offering you compensation or by providing a full explanation about what has happened and how they will stop a similar situation happening in the future.
Make a complaint to the Consumer Council for Water
If you are unsatisfied with the response to your complaint from Cambridge Water, you can make a complaint to the Consumer Council for Water. The Consumer Council for Water is an independent statutory body for consumers who have complaints against their water supplier.
Once you make a complaint, an independent case worker will assess your complaint and make recommendations to Cambridge Water about how they can resolve your complaint. Whereas the redress options available are likely to be the same as when you complain directly to your water supplier, they are likely to provide a much more impartial view in relation to your complaint.
In order to make a complaint to the Consumer Council for Water, it is necessary to have exhausted Cambridge Water’s internal complaints procedure first.
Report Cambridge Water to the Drinking Water Inspectorate
You also have a right to report Cambridge Water to the Drinking Water Inspectorate if you are unhappy with their response to your complaint. The Drinking Water Inspectorate is a government agency set up to, amongst other things, investigate complaints by consumers in relation to their drinking water quality.
Information regarding how to make a report can be found here. Once a report has been made, an inspector will be appointed to investigate your complaint and then decide whether Cambridge Water need to take any further action.
If you were to suffer from a disease or illness because of the exposure
If the worst should happen and you do begin suffering from a disease or illness that you believe was due to the exposure to PFOS by Cambridge Water, then it may be possible to claim compensation from Cambridge Water. Any claim is likely to be highly complex and you would need expert advice from a specialist Personal Injury Solicitors, such as Express Solicitors, to maximise your chance of success in your claim.
Citizens Advice have helpful guidance relating to making complaints against your water company, not limited to issues with contaminated water but also issues with supply in general, billing, data protection issues and many other concerns raised by consumers relating to their water supply.