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Stansted's hard water 'not a health concern' says public health team amid rise in reports of skin complaints

Essex public health chiefs say they have no concerns that the Stansted area’s hard water might be causing serious skin complaints such as eczema.

The reassurance follows anecdotal evidence from parents and doctors’ surgeries which suggested an increase in the number of people suffering flare-ups of painful dry, itchy skin – and Stansted’s Essex county councillor Ray Gooding called on Dr Mike Gogarty, director of public health, to investigate.

In a statement issued on Tuesday (May 4) in response to these concerns, Essex County Council said: “Our public health team have no issues relating to water quality or safety in this instance.”

The issue has arisen following a decision by Affinity Water not to replace a worn-out water softener at an Uttlesford treatment plant that serves the Saffron Walden area. Cllr Gooding feared the problem was filtering further south into Stansted.

“If it’s a public health matter then the director of public health has the power to intervene and make sure it’s resolved. Public health would take precedence,” said Cllr Gooding, adding that the reports were “a concern”.

Affinity Water has apologised for the impact of the very hard water, which also causes limescale build-up on household appliances, but stressed that water quality was of the highest standard and there was no scientific evidence to suggest a direct link with eczema.

It has apologised for its handling of the situation after informing customers that it would not be replacing the water softening equipment and that people would have to live with the “natural” hardness levels.

It also meant the end of a long-standing agreement dating back to 1963 that water in Saffron Walden and surrounding areas would be softened.

Affinity Water has now back-tracked and will begin a consultation process to investigate ways to partially soften the water again.

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