In their report to the Secretary of State – George Eustice MP the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) reports that ‘Lead plumbing in public buildings and domestic premises remains a measurable risk to public health, and more work is needed to address the legacy issues of lead plumbing and nickel in fittings.’ The report by Marcus Rink, Chief Inspector of Drinking Water was published on the 12 July 2022 and summarises the quality of drinking water supplies for England including private and also the public supplies managed by the water companies in England.
According to a report in The Financial Times (29 July 2022) ‘The exact number of households affected in unclear, but the industry estimates that almost a quarterof the 24.8m domestic properties across England and Wales still have some lead pipes in their supply network.’
Lead pipes have been used since Roman times but it has not been permitted in the UK since the 1970s. However, some plumbers using lead solder to easily joint copper pipes have contributed the lead leaching into supply. Water companies add sodium orthophospate (also used in Coca Cola) to prevent the lead dissolving into the drinking water but action to remove old lead pipes is needed to address the legacy issues of lead plumbing.
In the 12,269 tests for lead in water conducted by the major UK water companies 38 samples failed. Four companies had five failures each where compliance standards were breached. There are links below to each of the companies websites where there practices and guidance on lead water main replacement can be viewed.
Thames Water – Lead
Severn Trent Water – Lead replacement scheme
Southern Water – Is there lead in my water?
Yorkshire Water – Lead in Yorkshire’s Water