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Poor household plumbing blamed for water quality failures

Water customers have been warned about the dangers of amateur plumbing and sub- standard fittings after statistics showed that nearly a quarter of water quality failures at customers' taps are due to inadequate household plumbing.

This week’s annual report of the Drinking Water Inspectorate confirmed that 99.96 per cent of samples in England and 99.97 per cent of samples in Wales passed stringent water quality tests, but highlighted that where failures did occur, many were at customers’ taps.

Of these, 24 per cent were caused by poor plumbing practices, wrongly connected pipework, sub-standard fixtures and fittings and poor kitchen tap hygiene. All of these can cause the quality of drinking water to deteriorate after it has been transferred from the public water mains into private pipes and properties, potentially resulting in contamination.

Lead, nickel, taste and odour are behind some of the failures and these can be caused by legacy pipework, the wrong materials and fittings being used or inadequate protection from water ‘flowing back’ into internal pipework from dishwashers and toilets.

WaterSafe, the national register for plumbers which is backed by the Drinking Water Inspectorate and all the English water companies, is urging homeowners and property managers to use approved plumbers to help keep drinking water supplies safe.

Julie Spinks, Director of WaterSafe, said: “Water supplies in England are among the highest quality in the world and we want to ensure that the quality of the water remains high at the point it leaves customers’ taps.

“Many people don’t realise that there are many things which can affect water quality in homes, or other buildings, such as lead pipes, poor quality taps and fittings and even wrongly connected appliances such as dishwashers, washing machines and even toilets.

“We vet plumbers before they are allowed to join the WaterSafe register to ensure they have the right skills and knowledge to work safely with water. We also ensure they have insurance and customer care schemes in place so customers can trust they are employing a competent and qualified professional who will not compromise the quality of one of most important services in their homes.”

Plumbers on the WaterSafe register have specific training in the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations and Byelaws, which are designed to preserve the high quality of water that is supplied by water companies, and avoid the risk of contaminated water.

Marcus Rink, The Chief Inspector of Drinking Water for England and Wales, said: “Consumers need to be aware of the risks associated with poor household plumbing and sub-standard fixtures and fittings when it comes to the quality of their tap water.

“I urge them not to take any chances and always be sure to employ a reputable plumber. The Watersafe register is there to help people make an informed choice and provides confidence that work carried out in their home is done safely by a skilled and competent plumber using approved materials.

“It is an important part of ensuring that drinking water remains healthy and wholesome right up to the tap and reaches the high standards we all quite rightly expect.”

Each year thousands of samples of water are taken from reservoirs, water treatment works, pumping stations, water mains and customers’ taps by water companies.

These are tested in laboratories to monitor for a range of substances, including metals, pesticides and naturally-occurring bacteria which are measured against required standards.

The overall pass rate for drinking water was 99.96 per cent in England and 99.97 per cent in Wales.

Read the annual Drinking Water Quality Report.

Author: James Brockett,
Topic: Water Quality

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