Two members of a Government-ordered inquiry into Britain’s worst mass water poisoning have resigned saying the probe had become little more than a “risk assessment” which had “done nothing for the people of Cornwall”.
After a long campaign, Environment Minister Michael Meacher announced in 2001 that a full inquiry would be held into the long-term health implications of the poisoning in the Camelford area of North Cornwall in 1988.
The Lowermoor Sub Group of the Committee on Toxicity – including local representatives Doug Cross and Peter Smith – got under way in January 2002 and produced its disputed draft report in 2005. Its final version has yet to be published and the two men said they had “increasingly been frustrated” with the work of the committee before they finally resigned their positions last week.
Both said there were “serious flaws” in the approach taken by the committee, which had ignored key medical evidence from those exposed to the polluted water and failed to implement research to help those affected.
In a statement to the Western Morning News, Mr Smith, a Truro-based homeopath, and environmental scientist Mr Cross said: “There has been a complete failure to examine those affected, save for the interviews of those who came forward, and evidence was conveniently dismissed as broadly anecdotal.
“The process has become a scientific exercise to produce ‘no observed adverse effect levels’ and other such criteria for future scientific evaluation and almost completely fails to address the human emotional and mental effects of not only being poisoned by those they trusted, but subsequently ignored or attacked by those charged with their duty of care.”
The poisoning happened when 20 tons of aluminium sulphate were dumped into the wrong tank at the Lowermoor water treatment works on Bodmin Moor in July 1988.
It turned the water supply serving 20,000 people in North Cornwall highly acidic with tap water containing massive levels of aluminium and other metals stripped from pipes.
Mr Cross’s wife Carole died in 2004 aged 59 from a rare neurological disease usually associated with Alzheimer’s.
West Somerset coroner Michael Rose concluded that there was a “very real possibility” that the ingestion of aluminium by Mrs Cross had contributed to her death.
The sub-group, which reports to the Department of Health, published its draft report in January 2005, saying there was “no conclusive link” between the incident and chronic illness, but said “gaps” in scientific knowledge meant further investigations were needed.
A spokesman for the department said he was unable to comment on the resignations or the reasons for them.