Friday, August 27, 1999 Published at 10:06 GMT 11:06 UK
Sewage claim over E. coli death
Heather Preen died after picking up E.coli bug
Public health officials in Devon have rejected claims that a teenage girl's death from E. coli food poisoning was linked to a discharge of sewage near a local beach.
Children in three other families who visited the resort contracted the bug and recovered, but the local health authority denies there is a link between the outbreak and a sewage outfall 1.5km from the beach.
"This was exactly the time the family were in the area and they confirmed they walked through this sewage.
"There were no signs displayed, even though the health authority, the Environment Agency, the local council and South West Water were all aware of it.
"This development would clearly be a very likely source of infection, we would say."
'No evidence' of a link
South West Water has admitted that sewage related debris which had blocked a pipe was washed out through a storm overflow during construction work on 24 July, and some flowed onto the beach.
She told BBC Radio Four's Today programme that the sewage leak had occurred at the time the families were in Dawlish Warren, but had been cleaned up quickly and was a "one off".
"An investigation by the Environment Agency at the time does show that the total number of organisms around the water at Dawlish Warren on that date was very low indeed.
"That would suggest we did not have a major sewage contamination on that date."
She said: "When they do the tests it is usually for the total coliform count, but since the cluster of cases we have been specifically asking the laboratory to look out for E. coli 0157.
"To date the samples have all been negative, but it is worrying, I will agree."