WaterSafe encourages Harlow property owners to be aware of lead pipes supplying drinking water

Health / Tue 28th Sep 2021 at 02:00pm

DRINKING water in England was rated as very high-quality last year, despite the challenges of the pandemic, and property owners in Essex are being encouraged to do their bit to keep it that way.

The annual drinking water quality report, published by the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) recently, shows drinking water in England is safe, reliable and meeting its stringent high standards.

However, it also shows many properties can still be affected by lead pipes, which are mostly found in older homes, and lead solder, which some plumbers are using illegally on plumbing for wholesome drinking water. 

So, WaterSafe, the national register for plumbers, and the Drinking Water Inspectorate are encouraging homeowners and businesses with a plumber working in their property to ask them to check for lead water pipes.

The use of lead pipes in the UK was banned on new installations more than 30 years ago, as well as the use of lead solder on new and existing water pipes. This is because water supplied through lead pipes and used for drinking and cooking can create a build-up of lead in the body. This can be bad for heart and kidney health – especially for babies and children, whose development can be affected – as well as affecting mental function.

Julie Spinks, director of WaterSafe, said: “We’d encourage anyone who has an approved plumber working in their property to ask them to take a couple of minutes to check for lead pipes, and to check their plumber is only using unleaded solder if working on plumbing supplying wholesome drinking water. If you want to check for lead yourself, there’s a WaterSafe video you can watch. 

“If the underground pipe which connects your property to the water mains is found to be made of lead, get in touch with your local water company who can test the levels of lead in the water and offer advice on replacement. If they need replacing, always obtain a number of quotes to get this done with copper or plastic ones. Water companies will often replace the stretch they are responsible for beyond your boundary free of charge.”

The annual report by the Drinking Water Inspectorate shared one example of high levels of lead in the water tested at a care home, where an inspection by the local water company revealed lead solder had been used by an inexperienced plumber on the fittings, a practice which is illegal.

A spokesperson for the DWI said: “It is critical that public building owners only use approved plumbers to avoid such risks particularly where there are vulnerable populations.”

Elsewhere, another water company which took water samples from outside taps, many at churches, due to restrictions entering homes during lockdown, recorded a 500 per cent increase in breaches of lead levels in water samples.

The DWI spokesperson added: “This serves as a reminder of the prevalence of lead in older buildings not identified during routine monitoring which would usually occur inside homes.”

Property owners who find they do have lead pipes should contact their water supplier who can test the levels of lead in the drinking water and offer advice on replacing them.

WaterSafe and the Drinking Water Inspectorate recommend employing an approved plumber from its UK register to replace pipes, as they are fully qualified in the water fittings regulations and are promoted by water companies to keep drinking water safe in homes. Find local, approved plumbers using a postcode search at watersafe.org.uk.

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