HUNDREDS of people were left unable to wash, cook, or clean their teeth this week after tapwater turned a murky brown colour.

Residents across a large part of Blackburn, mostly in the Wensley Fold area between Montague Street and Preston New Road, turned on their taps to find the water coming out was discoloured and dirty.

United Utilities said it had received more than 100 calls from properties in the BB2 postcode on Monday and yesterday.

Around 2,000 households had potentially been affected, the company said, and yesterday engineers were still carrying out investigations although most homes had returned to normal.

The company was unable to confirm what had caused the discoloured tap water, or to say whether the problem was likely to recur.

Residents who called United Utilities were met with a recorded message saying there was no cause for concern.

The message said discoloured water was unlikely to be harmful and would settle down again with time.

Customers were advised to let the cold water tap run at a slight trickle until water ran crystal clear again.

But some said that drinking the dirty water had made them ill.

Alice Crookham, 70, who lives in Melville Road, drank a glass of water without noticing the colour, and later suffered an upset stomach.

She said: “I’m diabetic and I wanted a drink.

“I drank it and it tasted funny, there were bits in it, it was like a dirty grey colour.

“I chucked it away, but I had a belly ache afterwards.”

Her neighbour Selme Patel, 24, said her water had been discoloured for several hours on Monday. She said: “The tapwater is still a little bit smelly. We bought water from the shop.”

But John Ljevari, 61, who lives in New Park Street, said United Utilities had visited him yesterday.

He said the representative had taken some samples away for testing, but had told him the water was now up to standard.

He said: “We had to go out and buy bottled water because it was unfit to drink, we couldn’t cook with it or do anything with it.”

Jack Donlan, 74, who lives in Denville Road, was warned by a neighbour that the water was discoloured.

He said: “She said ‘don’t use the water Jack, it’ll be brown’, and it was.

“I had some pop in the house, but that makes you dry, and I like a cup of tea or coffee.”

John Martin from United Utilities said: “We are very sorry to our customers for the change to the quality of their water supply.

“We are pleased the water to almost all areas has now returned back to normal. But we will continue to carry out checks to confirm that the water is completely back to its usual high standard.”