I became ill through raw sewage

Mark Buttery

Mark Buttery

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A ‘super fit’ man believes he fell seriously ill after he came into contact with raw sewage in Peel bay.

Mark Buttery, aged 51, was training for a charity rowing match and was running eight miles a day before he became sick and had to take almost six months off work.

He has spoken to the Examiner about his experience after reading about the continued controversy over sewage in the bay, which was recently one of three Manx beaches to fail water quality standards after tests by the Marine Conservation Society.

Mark, a joiner who lives in Prince’s Road, Douglas, said: ‘I didn’t want to bring it to the public eye but with the failure of the IRIS system in Peel, I don’t want anyone else to go through what I have.

‘Until this incident I was perfectly healthy. I ran the mountain marathon several times, played rugby for years, was in the Manx Fell League and used to dive regularly.

‘Nobody in my family has ever had symptoms like this.’

Raw sewage is still pumped out to sea in Peel because the IRIS sewage network, which covers a large percentage of the island’s households, was never extended to the town.

Last week we reported that untreated sewage would continue to be pumped out into Manx seas until 2021, with work on Peel’s regional treatment plant not starting until 2016.

The controversy has angered many people in the town.

Mark said: ‘I’ve a good mind to take a bucket of the sea water from Peel to Tynwald, ask them to dip their hand in and then eat a sandwich if they don’t think there are dangers.’

He fell ill after he was preparing for a rowing event to raise money for leukaemia research.

He said: ‘We were doing training rows out of Peel down the coast and back fairly regularly and it was around this time I started to have problems with my stomach.

‘At the time I was running eight miles a day plus rowing during the weekends and the odd night. I was, I thought, super fit.

‘But the pains in my stomach were starting to get severe and it was then I started passing blood and not being able to eat.

‘I went to the doctor who referred me to a specialist three weeks later, but before I was able to see him I collapsed and was rushed to accident and emergency.

‘I had lost nearly three stone and was put in an isolation unit. They thought I had been to some Asian country and had eaten something bad, but I explained to them that I had been training most of the time and only been to Peel, to row out in the bay.’

After tests, Mark said doctors found that bacteria had caused his intestine to become eaten away and ulcerated. ‘I spent two weeks in isolation and then had a nearly six months off work,’ said Mark. ‘They told me I’d most likely picked something up from touching the oars.

‘I’m still suffering the effects. The medical staff said it could have been caused by a water borne pathogen.’

He added: ‘While I was in hospital I found out that raw sewage was being released 50 yards from the end of the breakwater.

‘Children and adults fish off the breakwater, kids swim in the sea, but there are no warning signs.

‘If it wasn’t for me being as fit as I was, I would have lost my whole intestine. I’m still being monitored regularly as I’m a high cancer risk.’

The other beaches to fail water quality standards were Kirk Michael and Ramsey.

Phase two of the government’s regional sewage treatment strategy is scheduled to take place between 2016 and 2021. It will take in Peel and the surrounding area, Laxey and Baldrine, Sulby and Ballaugh, and villages in the island’s Central Valley, if Tynwald agrees to fund it.

The ‘toilet tax’ controversy has hit Peel particularly hard since the charge is meant to pay for the IRIS sewage scheme but the town has not benefited from it.

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