Poor Household Plumbing Can Affect Water Quality in

Northern Ireland

The quality of public drinking water supplies in Northern Ireland is among the highest in the world, however, a recent report has shown that poor plumbing in peoples’ homes is contributing to the number of failed samples.

In its annual report published this month,  the Drinking Water Inspectorate for Northern Ireland confirms that 99.86 per cent of samples pass stringent water quality tests. However, where failures do occur, some are a result of poor plumbing practices, sub-standard fixtures and fittings and the hygienic condition of kitchen taps.

This can cause the quality of drinking water to deteriorate after it has been transferred from the public water mains into private pipes and properties, potentially resulting in contamination.

Lead, nickel, taste and odour are behind some of the failures and these can be caused by legacy pipework, the wrong materials and fittings being used or inadequate protection from water ¢flowing back¢ into internal pipework from appliances, such as dishwashers.

Now, WaterSafe, the national register for plumbers which is backed by the Drinking Water Inspectorate and  Northern Ireland Water is urging homeowners and property managers to use approved plumbers to help keep drinking water supplies safe.

Julie Spinks, Director of WaterSafe, said: ²Water supplies in Northern Ireland are among the healthiest in the world and we want to ensure that the quality of the water remains high at the point it leaves customers’ taps.
"Many people don’t realise that there are a number of things which can affect water quality in homes, or other buildings, such as lead pipes, poor quality taps and fittings and even wrongly connected appliances such as dishwashers or washing machines.
"We vet plumbers before they are allowed to join the WaterSafe register to ensure they have the right skills and knowledge to work safely with water. We also ensure they have insurance and customer care schemes in place so customers can trust they are employing a competent and qualified professional who will not compromise the quality of one of most important services in their homes.”

Plumbers on the WaterSafe register have specific training in the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations and Byelaws, which are designed to keep water in the same safe and healthy condition it is supplied by water companies, and avoid the risk of contaminated water.

Catriona Davis, the Chief Inspector of the Drinking Water Inspectorate for Northern Ireland, said: "A skilled and competent plumber using approved materials provides confidence in water remaining wholesome right up to the tap.
“I urge householders to always employ a reputable plumber through the use of a nationally registered plumber with schemes such as WaterSafe and its member organisation SNIPEF, The Scotland and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers Federation. This will go a long way towards ensuring drinking water quality does not deteriorate within people’s homes caused by sub-standard materials or faulty installation.”

Each year thousands of samples of water are taken from reservoirs, water treatment works, pumping stations, water mains and customers' taps by Northern Ireland Water.

These are tested in laboratories to monitor for a range of substances, including metals, pesticides and naturally-occurring bacteria which are measured against European and National drinking water standards.

The overall pass rate for drinking water in Northern Ireland was 99.86 per cent. The annual Drinking Water Quality Report can be downloaded  here.

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