So here is a thing.
A couple of weeks ago my new neighbours popped round to tell me that a recent water survey had shown that they had dangerous levels of lead in their water.
I am not sure what prompted them to get the water surveyed. But anyhow they had. And Anglian Water had done some scientific testing and the upshot was they were banned from drinking their tap water until the road could be dug up.
New neighbour explained that Anglian Water thought the problem might be the pipe between the main main and the house.
In a neighbourly way she thought I ought to know the lie of the land so to speak. Lay of the pipe? Obviously the road being dug up was one issue but there was also the fact that Anglian Water thought it likely my house would also be affected.
I think I may have mentioned the road being dug up in my blog Fares Please . Well I don’t think I did I know I did but, hey, links get me visits. So sue me I am a shameless reader numbers whore. Secretly all bloggers are. Numbers do matter. Sorry guys.
Here is another thing. Pipes running up to your boundary are the responsibility of the Water company (yea). Pipes on your property are not. They remain your responsibility.
We have all had those letters in the post warning us of the dire consequences of not taking up one’s Water company’s insurance for pipes on our property. We have all binned such letters. Or if super security aware, shredded them. I am one of those people. My laissez faire attitude to pipe ownership was perhaps coming back to bite me. Poison me.
Anyway our road was dug up. Neighbour’s pipe was lead. Anglian Water replaced it up to their boundary. And not an inch beyond. However they did say it looked unlikely that there was lead on their property. I am pleased for them.
Anyway in the manner of Pandora’s Box I now had to do something. I had been happily imbibing my tap water since last May with not a thought to its possible heavy metal content. Of course now there was the distinct possibility I was absorbing the old Pb I became paranoid. Not paranoid enough to switch to bottled water (too expensive and environmentally damaging) but paranoid enough to run my tap for two minutes each time I wanted a drink. I couldn’t put the thought back in the box.
I should probably add at this point that I have historically been a tap water evangelist. I have never seen the need to spend money on bottled water and pollute our local rivers with empty plastic bottles. I have always firmly believed in the benefits of tap water. And often told others so. I still believe this. Sort of. I will when all possibility of lead has left the arena anyway.
Of course I googled the effects of lead poisoning and wished I hadn’t. No really, I really wish I hadn’t.
So I called Anglian Water who, considering the circumstances, were happy to send out a scientist to test my water. And its level of toxins. I was expecting lab coats. And possibly a bespectacled gentleman.
I got a man in a van with steel toe capped boots and what looked suspiciously like four washed out coke bottles. Surely enough residual toxins in there to get my water onto the banned substance list. Anyhow he took his very scientific samples. Without labelling a single one. And nipped off to his van for a fag before drawing his last one- a 30 minute standing test.
He promised the results in writing within 10 days. That seemed an awfully long time to a person possibly building up ruinous levels of lead in their system. But then I reflected that since I had been gaily doing that for around 10 months it possibly didn’t make much difference.
In the manner of blood test results I expected a phone call should things be particularly hairy (sorry heavy). I hadn’t heard anything for 6 days and was starting to relax. I had stopped running the tap for two minutes every time I wanted a cuppa anyway.
I was just mentioning to my mother that I thought we were in for a clean bill of health when the man from Anglian Water called up. Irony or what… Leadery?
Suffice to say the level of lead in the sample taken from the street was over the safe amount of 10 mg per litre. Not much over but still over. The samples taken from my kitchen tap were lower but still showed the presence of lead. So there are lead pipes somewhere. My levels were not so bad that I was banned from drinking my water but he suggested going back to running it for two minutes before drinking to minimise the lead content in each refreshing glass full.
His suggested course of action was to dig up my road again and have a look at the pipe leading up to my boundary. If that proved to be made from lead they would replace it free of charge. Next another steel toe capped mad in a van would roll up and repeat the sampling. This time they would do a slightly more scientific test (in my view not difficult) for the ‘fag break’ one and take many more smaller samples which would help pinpoint where the lead piping remained within my property if indeed it did at all.
Quite why they didn’t do this before is unclear to me.
I asked him was it likely that the whole road (which predates the 1970s when lead piping became illegal) would be in the same predicament? He thought it likely.
That begged my next question. Why didn’t they just survey the whole street in a systematic way. Thus presumably saving time and money on hole diggers, pipe replacers and hole filler in-ers, temporary traffic lights and road closures.
His response? “That would be ideal but we have to target our resources”.
Clearly a stock response read off a card ‘to be used with difficult customers’. (I had one of those cards when I worked in a bank and had to sell loan insurance. ‘Overcoming Customer Objections’, I think it was called. If only the banks had not overcome such objections they would be a lot better off now. But hey ho that is a whole other issue and I appear to be getting side-tracked.)
His only suggestion was that I mention it to my neighbours directly. Of course I will. But a bit of proactivity on their part might have been nice. No not nice. Responsible.
It is not clear to me why shareholders in Anglian Water would come above public health but they clearly do.
Neighbour and I may do a leaflet drop. That will screw them right royally.
Serve them right.