Lead comes from a variety of sources including vehicle exhausts and old paintwork and it can also be present in air, food, soil or water. Lead can build up in the body over a period of time and in the longer term can be harmful, so it is wise to try to avoid excessive exposure to lead from any source. Action has been taken in recent years to reduce our exposure to lead from petrol, paint and drinking water.
Approximately 33% of the Island's existing 33,000 service and supply pipes, commonly installed during the mid to late 20th century, are believed to be made of lead. As a result, some of us may worry that our drinking water might contain lead in undesirable amounts.
We are fully aware of consumer's concerns and constantly monitor the levels of lead in drinking water. We also continue to replace lead communication pipes as part of our mains refurbishment programme.
How does lead enter the water?
For a long time lead was used in the manufacture of small diameter water pipes. This means that part or all of the service pipe connecting the water main in the street to your kitchen tap may be made of lead.
The Island's drinking water originates from upland peat areas making it particularly soft and able to dissolve the lead in pipes. For this reason, the amount of lead in drinking water can sometimes be above the suggested standard.
Are there lead pipes in my home?
If your home has been modernised since 1970, it is likely that any original lead pipework has been replaced. Properties built after 1970 ought not to have any lead pipework.
If you are still unsure, you should try to locate the pipe leading to your kitchen tap – this may be found behind your kitchen cupboards or perhaps under the stairs. You might also check your pipes outside by examining the pipe leading from your stop tap to your property.
The hinged cover over your stop tap is usually positioned on the pavement adjacent to your home. Unpainted lead pipes are dull grey in colour and they are quite soft. If you scrape the surface gently with a knife, you will see the shiny silver coloured metal beneath.
How can lead levels be reduced?
Water leaving the treatment works is dosed with orthophosphate which effectively 'coats' the inside of existing lead piping, making the water less likely to dissolve the lead and reducing lead levels in the water by around 30%.
Work carried out by toxicologists, medical and water scientists has shown that the maximum admissible concentration of lead in drinking water should be 10 micrograms per litre. Rest assured that we take all reasonable and practical steps to meet these standards.
We regularly take samples of water supplied to properties across the Island and test them for lead. If you discover that your home has lead pipes we can advise you on the amount of lead contained in your drinking water. A member of staff will take a sample from your home and report back to you with the results. There is no charge for this service.
If lead pipes are causing high lead levels in your drinking water you can take some simple precautions:
- do not drink water that has been standing in the pipes for long periods. Instead, draw off at least a bucket full of water from the kitchen tap to clear the water which has been standing in the pipes. If the length of the pipe exceeds more than 30 yards, more than a bucket full of water will need to be drawn off. Vigorously run the water for at least 30 seconds. You can then use the water from the kitchen tap as usual
- never drink water from the bathroom taps, regardless of whether you have lead piping or not. It could be being fed from the storage tank in the loft, rather than directly off the mains supply
- consider lead pipe replacement
Lead pipe replacement
If you have lead pipes and wish to replace them you should contact an authorised person to replace the supply pipe into your property. You can then request for the existing lead communication pipe supplying the property to be replaced by us, free of charge.
When you are removing the lead pipes in your home, make sure that you replace the earth leakage strap. If you do not put an earth leakage strap on your new pipe, you might compromise your electrical safety. If in doubt, seek the advice of a registered electrical contractor.
For more information please contact us.
Download the application form for lead service replacement.