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Friday, 14 December 2007

Coroner orders police to reopen Camelford water pollution case

Coroner orders police to reopen Camelford pollution case

Extract from the Guardian:

"The police were today ordered to reopen an investigation into Britain's worst water poisoning disaster following allegations of a cover-up.

The pollution happened in 1988 when 20 tonnes of aluminium sulphate was delivered into the wrong tank at the water treatment works at Lowermoor on the edge of Bodmin Moor, which were run by the now defunct South West Water Authority.

Since then, local people have complained of a range of health issues, from brain damage and memory loss to joint problems.

The police investigation was ordered today by West Somerset coroner Michael Rose, who has opened inquests into the deaths of two women who lived in the Camelford area at the time of the pollution.

One was Carole Cross, 58, who died in 2004 and was the wife of environmental scientist Doug Cross, a member of a government committee which has been investigating the medical effects of the incident.

An autopsy revealed abnormally high levels of aluminium in the brain of his wife, who suffered from a neurological disease.

Irene Neal, 91, lived in Rock, north Cornwall, at the time of the pollution and died in a nursing home in Buckfastleigh, Devon, in June this year.

A brain autopsy on Neal, whose home was served by the Camelford water system, revealed an "unacceptable amount of aluminium in the brain", said her daughter, Pam Melville.

The coroner said extensive tests, including pathology examinations, were undertaken by Professor Margaret Esiri at John Radcliffe hospital, Oxford, and by Chris Exley at Keele University, Staffordshire.

"These tests have revealed there may be a connection between at least one of these deaths and the earlier incident," the coroner said.

"In view of the serious allegations made in the media of a possible attempt to initially suppress the seriousness of the incident, I am asking the chief constable of Devon and Cornwall to hand me evidence gathered at the time of the original investigation."

He also asked the chief constable to appoint a senior detective "to look into the allegations of a possible cover-up"."

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