THE MALVERN GAZETTE is calling for a system to better alert people about contamination of the Malvern Hills’ famous springs and wells.
The woeful shortcomings of existing arrangements were exposed in February when we revealed that all 12 main public springs were closed.
Although people could still visit them, tests had revealed levels of bacteria that rendered the water unsafe to drink unboiled.
It was the first known time that all the springs had been shut together because of contamination.
Remarkably given the springs’ importance to the Malvern Hills tourism economy, they had been shut for more than three months before the Gazette exclusively broke the news.
And the only public acknowledgement of the contamination was on notices attached to the springs after one of their quarterly inspections.
This ad hoc system means people visiting the area, perhaps specifically to sample the hills’ world-famous waters, will only discover that they are not fit to drink after arriving at their destination.
It is easy to imagine their disappointment, and the harm it could do to the area’s reputation.
That is why we believe an online warning system more aligned with the needs of holidaymakers and day-trippers is needed.
We suggest it could be called the Malvern Hills Springs Alert (#SpringsAlert).
It would use the internet and social media to show the current status of all the hills’ inspected springs, and we would be happy to carry a permanent link to the information on our website at malverngazette.co.uk.
Responsibility for the warning system could be shared between landowners, local councils and Worcestershire Regulatory Services, which monitors the quality of the water.
Bruce Osborne, spokesman for Friends of Malvern Springs and Wells, said: “We don’t want to make Malvern a name associated with contaminated water, but we do want to tell people when they need to boil the water.
“Perhaps what needs further consideration is how such announcements are managed. Do we need to project a clearer indication that spring waters are naturally occurring resources, and do suffer the machinations of nature? Or do we enforce a shutdown while the contamination is present?”
He said contamination is associated both with very dry and wet weather, when the coliform bacteria present in the droppings of animals such as sheep and rabbits can find their way into the springs.
Steve Bound, director of Malvern Hills Conservators, said: “In principle it’s a good idea to have some sort of system that people can check and see what the latest news about the water sources is.
“Perhaps people who regularly collect water could register for some sort of email alert, which could be sent out if contamination is discovered.”
Mark Cox, of Worcestershire Regulatory Services – the standards agency that serves local councils and which monitors the water quality – said: “Our advice is always to boil water from the springs to be on the safe side. The only exception is Malvhina [on Belle Vue island] which has its own ultra-violet filter.”
The springs contaminated for the early part of this year included such well-loved landmarks as St Ann’s Well, and Hayslad off West Malvern Road.
The springs are checked quarterly by Worcestershire Regulatory Services and during the round of tests in November all 12 of the major springs were found to be contaminated.
The latest tests showed St Ann’s and Hayslad are now free from contamination.
- What do you think? Email us here.
- Or tweet using #SpringsAlert