Raising awareness of lead pipes

Raising awareness of lead pipes

WaterSafe is working in partnership with Scottish Water and the Drinking Water Quality Regulator for Scotland to encourage homeowners to check if their water pipes are made of lead.

The use of lead plumbing has been banned in the UK for more than 25 years because lead dissolving into drinking water can be harmful if it builds up in the body – especially for babies and children, whose development can be affected.

However, research by WaterSafe shows nearly two-thirds of homeowners in Scotland have never checked to see if they have lead water pipes.

The campaign follows the publication of the annual drinking water quality report by the Drinking Water Quality Regulator for Scotland.

While it confirmed drinking water in Scotland is of high quality, with 99.9% of samples meeting the required standards, it also showed that some homes are still being affected by lead pipes. These are mostly found in homes built before 1970.

To raise awareness, WaterSafe is advising homeowners to seek help from an approved plumber to identify and replace lead pipes. Plumbers on WaterSafe’s UK approval register are all trained in the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Byelaws and supported by Scottish Water.

Nine lead failures were picked up during Scottish Water’s routine tests at customers’ taps in 2018 and in all these cases they found lead pipes in the home’s plumbing.

The good news is that awareness is on the rise, as hundreds more customers contacted Scottish Water in 2018 for advice on lead pipes and free tests. Of these tests, a further 158 resulted in failures of the lead standards and in these cases Scottish Water offered information and advice to the customers to take action to improve their plumbing.

Replacing lead plumbing inside homes, and to the property boundary, is the responsibility of the homeowner, although WaterSafe’s research shows only half of households are aware of this.

Julie Spinks, Director of WaterSafe, said: “WaterSafe-approved plumbers have an important role to play in helping homeowners identify lead pipes and take steps to replace them to keep their drinking water fresh and healthy.

“We’re encouraging homeowners who have an approved plumber working in their home to ask them to take a couple of minutes to check for lead pipes and, if they need replacing with copper or plastic ones, to obtain a number of quotes to get them replaced.”

Bill Byers, of the Drinking Water Quality Regulator, said: “It is clear that there are many consumers who believe that lead was a problem resolved years ago.  It is generally taken that houses built before 1970 are most likely to have had their water supply originally delivered through lead pipes.

“The good thing is that, over time, a proportion have had those pipes replaced. For some property owners, however, the issue has not gone away and is something they need to think about. Consumers can access information on lead in drinking water on our website at dwqr.scot/information/lead-in-drinking-water.”

Michael North, Scottish Water’s byelaws team manager, said: “We support WaterSafe’s call to homeowners in properties built before about 1970 to check whether they have lead pipes and, if so, have them replaced. Customers can ask us to sample their water for lead they should contact us at 0800 0778 778 or at [email protected]. There is more information on our website at scottishwater.co.uk.”

To help raise awareness WaterSafe, Scottish Water and the Drinking Water Quality Regulator produced a film to help homeowners take action. The film stars former UK Plumber of the Year and WaterSafe member Shaun Scott…

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