By Angela Frewin
The Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) has decided not to prosecute Three Valleys Water over last summer's cryptosporidium contamination, which forced hoteliers to use boiled or bottled water for 16 days.
Hoteliers incensed by the water company's compensation offer of just £10 had been considering legal action to recover losses (Caterer, 27 March 1997, page 7).
A DWI prosecution "would have added considerable weight to our case," said Gary Jones, general manager of the Cumberland hotel in Harrow, who estimated the disruption had cost the business some £5,000 - a sum also claimed by Sopwell House hotel in St Albans. Now, said Jones, the hotel would have to review the way forward.
The DWI's belief that it could not mount a successful prosecution as the law is currently interpreted followed a precedent-setting judgement last September. A prosecution against South-West Water over a cryptosporidiosis outbreak was thrown out on the grounds that it would take too long for the defence team to gain access to medical evidence linking the water supply with the disease.
"I can understand that the consumers affected will be disappointed that we are not able to pursue a prosecution," said chief inspector Michael Rouse.
The DWI is now calling for a change to the law to allow them to prosecute more easily and this demand was backed by Gerard Virlombier, general manager of St Alban's Noke Thistle hotel, who felt water consumers should have some form of redress in future.