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Copeland residents win tap water blend battle

Copeland residents have won their battle to receive a softer blend of tap water following a meeting between the company, Copeland MP Trudy Harrison, Mike Starkie the Mayor of Copeland Council, the Environment Agency (EA), the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) and DEFRA.

Under the new water supply arrangements agreed at the meeting, residents will receive a consistent blend of water classed as soft throughout the year, with UU using a smaller proportion of borehole water.

The decision will come as good news to residents across West Cumbria who have been receiving harder water after the water company began reducing supplies from Ennerdale and started to blend in water from boreholes at Egremont.

Earlier this month, Conservative MP Trudy Harrison called on residents to back her petitionasking for UU to be allowed to continue extracting water from Ennerdale until the completion of the Thirlmere project in 2022. At the time Harrison said Copeland has received fresh Ennerdale water since the 1850s, and “we as a community are accustomed to the soft water of Ennerdale and should not have to make do with a 50:50 mix”.

Following the meeting, Martin Padley, UU water and scientific services director at United Utilities, said: “We made the original changes to the supply to meet a requirement to reduce the amount of water taken from Ennerdale and so improve the ecology of the River Ehen. All our tests have consistently shown the water to be of the usual high quality, but we have taken on board the concerns of our customers who said they didn’t like the harder water.

“I’m really pleased that we have been able to arrive at a compromise which will allow us to keep the amount of borehole water in the blend to a minimum, while still providing benefits for the local environment.”

The softer blend will be maintained until 2022 when a new pipeline bringing water from Thirlmere reservoir comes on line. The only time the proportion of borehole water would ever be increased will be in times of drought when the level of Ennerdale reaches a certain low point. Rainfall models indicate this might happen once in four years.

Mike Starkie, Mayor of Copeland Council, said: “Our residents have been very concerned over the changes to the water supply, and many have been unhappy about the ‘harder’ water they are receiving.

“Along with our MP, Trudy Harrison, I have had a positive meeting with United Utilities, the Environment Agency, the Drinking Water Inspectorate and DEFRA, and I am pleased that our drinking water will be a softer blend, balancing the wishes of the community with the environmental impact. I am sure that lessons have been learned from this process, especially in terms of how this change was communicated to Copeland’s residents.”

Trudy Harrison said: “Following on from that meeting and in respect of residents’ concerns that were made, United Utilities have listened and are now going to supply soft water until the end of the transitional period which will see our water supply coming from Thirlmere.”

Keith Ashcroft, EA area director, said: “We have supported United Utilities as they developed a way forward for the drinking water supply issues. We continue to work closely with the water company to deliver West Cumbria’s demand for water in the best possible way, balancing the needs of people whilst protecting the sensitive natural environment.”

UU is constructing a new £300M scheme to bring soft water from Thirlmere Reservoir to West Cumbria. The scheme involves the construction of 100km of new pipeline, a new treatment plant, two new pumping stations and two new underground service reservoirs. Ennerdale water will not be used after the new scheme comes on line in 2022.

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