Bognor Regis Family Struck Down With Suspected Water Borne Illnesses
Specialist Public Health lawyers have been instructed to investigate after a family fell ill with suspected water borne diseases following a sewage leak in West Sussex.
Sam Walsh, 30, Katy Hutchings, 23, Luna Walsh, 2 and 14-month-old Storm Walsh fell ill after drinking tap water at their home in Barnham, near Bognor Regis.
It came after a sewer collapsed in the village, during Storm Ciaran in October 2023 flooding a number of homes with waste. Southern Water, the company responsible for the sewer, closed the road while repairs took place. Repairs are still on-going, and the road remains closed.
Sam, Katy and Storm started to suffer with sickness and diarrhoea, which continued for several weeks. Luna then started to suffer from similar symptoms. Following tests, Storm tested positive for the parasitic infections giardia and cryptosporidium.
The Walsh family didn’t think they had been impacted directly and continued with their lives as normal. They didn’t receive any notification from their water company that tap water might be unsafe to drink as a result of the incident.
Following their continued illness, the Walsh family has instructed expert Public Health lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate their illnesses. The team has vast experience of supporting people affected by illness outbreaks across the UK and abroad, including the Royal Papworth hospital water contamination outbreak.
Expert Opinion“We’re concerned to hear of the symptoms the family have suffered, the family’s concerns over the impact of the sewage leak and the ongoing issues it’s causing for a large number of people.
“Infections like giardia and cryptosporidium can be extremely serious for the most vulnerable in society, such as children, and can lead to long-term health consequences. In some cases they can prove fatal.
“Storm has been left incredibly poorly and the family understand that other children may also have fallen ill with similar symptoms.
“While it’s welcome Southern Water is taking steps to fix the sewer, we’re now investigating the wider impact of the incident in order to provide Sam with the answers his family deserves.
“We would be interested in speaking to anyone who may have been impacted by this incident at who would be able to assist with our investigations.”
“If during the course of our investigations any issues are identified, it’s vital that lessons are learned and any issues relating to the impact on the water supply are addressed.” Jatinder Paul
Katy first became ill in mid-November with sickness and diarrhoea lasting about 2 weeks. Luna vomited for about 4 – 5 days. Then Storm started to be ill with sickness and diarrhoea the end of November and Sam the end of December 2023. Given concerns over the impact on Storm, the family consulted its GP, who arranged for tests to be completed.
Storm was going through 15-16 nappies a day. Her skin became dry and crusty as the result of dehydration and the family had been informed if the symptoms continued, she would have needed to be admitted to hospital.
Sam, who fell ill in December is still suffering with diarrhoea.
Sam said: “The last several weeks have been a nightmare for the whole family. I have never felt so ill and when I think how Storm must be feeling, it breaks your heart.
“It’s been so upsetting to see Storm so ill and being powerless to do anything about it. The test results were truly frightening and left us fearing she would need to go into hospital. She has been given some medication from the doctor and we just hope she improves and it doesn’t come to that.
“If Storm hadn’t been so ill, and received the positive stool results I would not have connected it with the sewage leak. Our house wasn’t flooded but the stream next to us flooded over and there was sewage in front and behind the house. It was horrible and it’s had a massive impact locally.
“No-one said you shouldn’t drink the tap water and as a result, we didn’t think there were any concerns. We’ve been contacted by Public Health who are investigating and we contacted Southern Water, who didn’t seem interested in our concerns.
“This incident has impacted on my time with the family, as I don’t want my eldest son Hunter, 8, to come to the house in case he also falls ill and given what has happened to Storm. We’ve heard that several other children fell ill at the same time and others may have become sick.
“Right now, I just want to keep the rest of the family safe and get some answers on how this came to happen and see that everything possible is done to prevent this happening in the future.”
Public Health England is also investigating.