The Public Protection Department deals with consumer enquiries about drinking water.
Mains drinking water must comply with certain legal standards. The London Borough of Bexley monitors the results of sampling carried out by the water company, Thames Water Utilities Ltd (TWU).
The most common enquiries relate to the taste, smell or appearance of the drinking water, for example a chlorine or bleach taste. The main reason for this type of complaint is the treatment process used by TWU to keep the water safe to drink. Although the chlorine remaining in the water may be detectable by some people the effects are not harmful.
Another common enquiry concerns 'scale' in water or on equipment. The water in the Bexley area is naturally hard which means that consumers will notice a white substance that may accumulate on heating elements, around tap nozzles and on areas where taps continually run or drip. In addition, customers sometimes notice a 'scum' on the surface of a hot drink and feel the taste is suffering as a result. These effects of water hardness are not harmful to health. People moving into the area from a soft water area often notice the most difference.
Small particles or other foreign substances are infrequently reported and usually arise from local conditions. Each case will need an investigation to establish the cause.
For more information and advice on any of the above customers should contact the 24-hour TWU Customer Centre on 0845 9200 800 (UK local call) or visit the Thames Water website (linked from the right of this page).
Consumers wanting to know more in general about the quality of their drinking water can obtain a report, free of charge, for the area in which their property is located by contacting the Thames Water Customer Centre or writing to Thames Water Customer Centre, PO Box 436, Swindon, SN38 1TU.
People living in older houses (pre 1970) that could have water supplied through lead pipes may have concerns about possible lead levels in their drinking water. In fact the hardness of the water means that the internal surfaces of the pipes are coated with scale and so lead is generally not found in Bexley's water. The exception would be where there has been recent work carried out on the water pipes. This may temporarily allow or cause higher levels of lead than is normal to be present in the water.
If, after checking pipe work, say, to the kitchen cold tap, lead piping is found to be present, a sensible precaution is to run off the quantity of water that has been standing in the pipes overnight or longer before using it for drinking or cooking purposes. Lead pipe between the stop valve and the kitchen tap is the responsibility of the owner to replace. If this is done the water company can be required to replace any lead pipes between the water main in the street and the stop valve.
Water can be tested for lead levels either by the TWU on the Customer Centre number or by the Council by telephoning the contact numbers.
Occasionally consumers believe their drinking water causes stomach upsets or other symptoms. If possible the water should be eliminated as a possible source but a doctor should be consulted if symptoms become serious or persist. In these circumstances a test for the microbiological quality of the water can be carried out by either TWU or the Council by telephoning the contact numbers.
TWU will normally take a sample from the water hydrant on the street as well as any taken from the house.
TWU is continually taking random samples from kitchen taps in domestic premises to check compliance with the legal requirements. These samples sometimes reveal the presence of bacteria (though not usually disease causing) in the water. TWU always notify the Council where this occurs and the Commercial Team contact the consumer with advice and the offer of a re-test.
The usual reason for this kind of failure is an accumulation within the tap fitting itself and can be remedied by simply dismantling the tap, properly cleaning with a domestic hypochlorite solution and fitting a new washer. Experience has shown that after such work the water is usually clear of any bacteria.
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