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Experts demand new Camelford poison water probe

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: November 02, 2012

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TWO EXPERTS on the 1988 Camelford water poisoning incident have demanded an independent inquiry into its health repercussions, claiming the Government has failed to investigate.

Doug Cross and Peter Smith say the Department of Health (DoH) refused to take the steps needed to protect the public during and after a major chemical pollution incident.

Both have resigned in protest from the Lowermoor Sub-Group Committee on Toxicity, which was set up in 2001 by then-Environment Minister Michael Meacher.

Mr Cross, an environmental scientist who lived at Camelford at the time of the water poisoning, and Truro homeopath Mr Smith say the Government's probe has become little more than a risk assessment exercise which has done nothing for the people of Camelford.

The pair have the support of Lord Tyler of Linkinhorne, Mr Meacher MP and North Cornwall MP Dan Rogerson, and are urging them to push for a new inquiry.

"It's now a real-life David and Goliath confrontation," said Mr Cross. "We've worked for 24 years on behalf of the community to force this travesty of emergency reaction to a major incident out into the open, and it's time that those who deliberately left us to stew without assistance were finally called to account."

The disaster happened when 20 tonnes of aluminium sulphate were dumped into the wrong tank at the Lowermoor water treatment works, near Camelford, in July 1988. It turned the water supply to 20,000 people in North Cornwall highly acidic, with tap water containing massive levels of aluminium.

Mr Cross's wife Carole died in 2004 aged 59 from a unique neurological disease distantly related to Alzheimer's.

Since her death Mr Cross has been in contact with five families who have lost a loved one from what they believe to have been illness related to the Lowermoor poisoning.

He told the Cornish Guardian: "In a couple of cases, there have even been suicides, as the persons concerned were aware that they appeared to be going down the same pathway as my wife, and decided to end their lives before things became insufferable."

He said he had been able to secure brain samples for analysis in a couple of cases, but others were either missed by the health sector or dismissed as irrelevant by a coroner convinced by the claim that long-term medical effects were not possible.

Both Mr Cross and Mr Smith say the remit of the Sub-Group from which they resigned was deliberately altered to prevent it examining the way in which the DoH attempted to keep the incident under wraps.

The group was prevented from asking to see medical records, or from requesting clinical or psychological tests on those continuing to complain of long-term adverse effects.

They say that some valid medical tests can still be carried out, and should be implemented as soon as possible, with funds being made available, and are calling for a group of sympathetic and open-minded experts independent of the DoH to be appointed to implement this and to oversee and report on the results.

In a joint statement, they said: "We dissociate ourselves from the study. We denounce the DoH and its associates for deliberately attempting to prevent the full impacts of this incident from being discovered."

A spokesman for the DoH said he was unable to comment on the resignations or the reasons behind them.

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