The United Kingdom’s recent foot-and-mouth disease outbreak was likely caused by heavy rain and leaking drains, a report has found. The Health and Safety Executive, a British regulatory agency, said it was not clear which of the two labs located at Pirbright, four miles from where the disease was found, were responsible.

At a news conference in central London, Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said it was not possible to know the exact cause and that there was no excuse for the outbreak.

The weaknesses in the drains, the heavy rain and floods, the building work taking place on the site, and the movement of vehicles provides the most likely explanation for the outbreak.

The reports, one by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the other by Professor Brian Spratt of Imperial College, include evidence of damage to the pipe with tree roots breaking through and unsealed manhole covers.

In a report released Friday, it was thought that waste water containing the live virus entered the drainage system then leaked out and contaminated the surrounding soil and could then have been taken to surrounding farming areas on vehicles that visited Pirbright.

Chief veterinary officer, Debby Reynolds, said she was "satisfied that foot-and-mouth disease has been eradicated from the UK in 2007".

She said the remaining surveillance zone around the affected farms in Surrey would be lifted at midday on Saturday, but the 5 km security area around the Pirbright site would remain in place.

All restrictions on export and animal movements have already been removed.

Source: BBC