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Drinking Water Quality

These pages contain information and advice about our duties with regard to drinking water.

Most people in the borough receive mains water. Mains water is that which is supplied by United Utilities Link to External Website. A small percentage of people living in isolated or outlying properties may gain their water from a private supply which may be from a well, spring, stream or borehole.

Mains Water

Problems with mains water should be reported in the first instance to United Utilities. United Utilities are the statutory water undertaken for the Tameside area. Their customer service telephone number is 08457 462 200.

If you are unhappy with the service you receive from United Utilities then you should ask for details of their complaints procedure. If you are still unhappy with the response from United Utilities you may wish to contact the water industry regulators OFWAT (Office of Water Suppliers) or Water Voice who may decide to take your complaint forward. Contact details for OFWAT and Water Voice can be obtained from their website www.ofwat.gov.uk.

Tameside Council’s Environmental Services may be able to take on your complaint but we will only look into cases where there is a risk to public health. Generally, we will only be concerned with drinking water from the rising main cold kitchen tap and not with complaints relating to supplies elsewhere in the property for example, bathroom taps or storage tanks.

Lead Pipes

Lead pipes within your property or property boundary should be changed to copper or alkathene plastic. Pipes outside your property boundary are the responsibility of United Utilities.

In the meantime if you do have lead pipes it may be worth considering the following:

  • Do not drink water that has been standing in the pipes for long periods (overnight, or if the property has been empty for several hours/days).
  • Draw off enough water to empty all water standing in the pipes (the water can be used for non-drinking or cooking purposes such as gardening).
  • The water from the tap should then be suitable for normal use.

The Private Water Supplies Regulations 2009

Introduction

A private water supply is any water supply which is not provided by a water company (water undertaker) and which is not considered to be a ‘mains’ supply. Private water supplies can be obtained from a variety of sources including:

  • Springs;
  • Wells;
  • Boreholes;
  • Rivers and streams; and
  • Lakes or ponds.

All private water supplies can pose a potential threat to health unless they are properly protected and treated. Unlike mains water supplies, many private supplies are not treated to remove contamination. You may not be able to tell whether your water is safe as contamination may not show as smell, taste or colour of the water.

The Regulations

The new Private Water Supplies Regulations 2009 came into force on 1 January 2010. They are a result of a European Directive that requires everybody to have access to a water supply of equal quality to the mains supply.

What is the objective?

The Regulations are concerned with the wholesomeness of water and require that local authorities sample and monitor water from private supplies.

Who do they apply to?

All private supplies intended for human consumption. This includes:

  • Domestic purposes (drinking, cooking, food preparation and washing); and
  • Commercial (food production, holiday homes, bed and breakfast accommodation, caravan and campsites).

Our role

Under section 77 of the Water Industry Act 1991 we have a duty to check the quality of all water supplies within our area.

The Regulations are concerned with the wholesomeness of water obtained from private supplies and require us to sample and analyse the water from these supplies.

The new Regulations will change the way in which we sample and monitor your supply. The main changes are outlined below:

The new Regulations aim to protect health and they require the same quality standards as the mains water supply. They require each supply to undergo a risk assessment so that sampling is tailored according to the risk it presents as a result of factors such as the source of supply, the area it is abstracted from and the number of consumers. The regulations affect all private supplies although those serving a single dwelling will only be risk assessed and sampled upon request.

Classification and frequency of sampling

  • Commercial and larger domestic supplies – all supplies of any size that are supplied as part of a commercial or public activity and large domestic private supplies serving 50 or more people a day. A full risk assessment to be completed every five years and sampled at least twice a year.
  • Small supplies – two or more dwellings but less than 50 people using supply. A risk assessment must be completed once every five years and monitored at least once a year.
  • Small single supplies – where water is supplied to a single dwelling for domestic purposes only. These supplies will not automatically be included in the sampling regime. Sampling and risk assessment will only be undertaken if requested to do so by owner or occupier. If you want your supply assessing the charges listed below apply and in the event of failure we have a duty to ensure the supply is made satisfactory.
  • Private distribution systems – water supplied by United Utilities which is further distributed by third party pipes, for example, caravan and camp sites. A risk assessment must be carried out and a sampling programme devised based on the results.

What is a risk assessment?

A risk assessment is a check on the condition of the supply. It involves looking at the source of the supply, the surrounding area and anticipating what might lead to contamination. It will also involve looking at storage tanks, pipe work and treatment systems. The risk assessment identifies any actual and potential hazards that may affect the health of those drinking the water, so that improvements can be made to ensure the quality of the water supply and safeguard the health of those using it.

Will advance notice of sampling be given?

We will endeavour to make arrangements with the owner or occupier where possible prior to carrying out a risk assessment and taking samples.

Where will the sample be taken from?

One of our officers will take the sample from a tap used to supply water for drinking or cooking. In food premises it will be taken from the point immediately before the supply is used for food preparation.

What will we be sampling for?

Untreated water can contain micro-organisms (from animal or human excrement) and, or chemical contamination caused by the ground through which it has run. These may not be detectable by taste or smell. We will be assessing the water for both chemical and microbiological parameters as stated in the 2009 Regulations.

How do I receive and interpret my results?

The results of the sampling will be forwarded to you with a letter within 28 days of us receiving them from the laboratory. The letter will explain the results and inform you if any remedial action is required to safeguard your supply.

What sort of improvements might be needed?

Improvements may include the following:

  • Fencing around the source of the supply and/or collection tanks to protect them from grazing livestock and other animals that may cause contamination of the water supply.
  • Digging drainage ditches around the source or collection tanks to prevent ground water run-off entering the supply.
  • Repairing collection chambers and installing tight fitting lids to ensure a good seal to protect the supply from vermin or rubbish.
  • Clearing the site of overgrown vegetation.
  • Repairing old leaking pipes and taps.
  • Replacing lead pipe.
  • Installing appropriate water treatment to ensure satisfactory chemical and microbiological quality.

Sometimes it may prove necessary to install a filter to remove or lower the level of a particular substance.

Examples include the following:

  • Ultra Violet (UV) filters to remove bacteria (E Coli).
  • Reverse Osmosis filters to remove aluminium or nitrate.
  • Iron and Manganese filters.
  • Ion Exchange filters to remove lead.

Charges for risk assessment, sampling and analysis

The Regulations allow us to recover our costs in carrying out a risk assessment, sampling and analysis. The Regulations set maximum amounts and these are listed in the table below.

Activity Maximum charge permitted Tameside Council charging scheme Comments
Risk Assessment £500 £50 an hour up to the maximum Minimum charge £50, simple risk assessment and report typically 5 hours.
Sampling £100 £50 an hour up to the maximum Charge for a visit and to take a sample.
Investigation £100 £100 Carried out in the event of test failure
Authorisation £100 £100 Application by the owner of a supply for permission to breach a standard temporarily whilst remedial work is carried out.

Analysis

Activity Maximum charge permitted Tameside Council charging scheme Comments
Under Reg. 10
(Domestic supplies)
£25 Actual lab costs up to the maximum Where a supply provides <10m3/day or <50 people and is used for domestic purposes.
Check monitoring (Commercial supplies) £100 Actual lab costs up to the maximum Check monitoring is carried out to ensure that water complies with the standards. Where possible this will be carried out at the same time as any requirement for Audit monitoring to keep costs down.
Audit monitoring (Commercial supplies) £500 Actual lab costs up to the maximum Additional parameters sampled less often to ensure the water complies with all safety standards.

Where more than one person is liable, the costs will be apportioned appropriately.

We will only charge enough to cover the costs of carrying out our duties, up to the maximum amounts shown above.

Legal powers available to improve the quality of supplies

The new Private Water Supplies Regulations will require us to investigate and establish the cause of a failure to meet the required standards. In the first instance, advice will be given on various improvements which can be made. We are encouraged to negotiate with the person responsible for the private supply to try to resolve a problem informally. If unsuccessful, we must take formal action to ensure that a failure is remedied and that any risk to health is removed or minimised. Formal action may include:

  • Restriction notice – If the private supply constitutes a risk to human health we have a new power to serve a ‘Restriction Notice’ on the owner to prohibit or restrict the use of the supply. It will be an offence to breach a Restriction Notice or fail to comply with it. There is a right of appeal to the Magistrates’ Court.
  • Authorisations – if a private supply is unwholesome but does not present a risk to health we have the power to grant an ‘authorisation’ of different standards for chemical parameters to the responsible person. This is a temporary measure allowing up to two years for the necessary remedial action to be implemented.
  • Improvement Notice – where we cannot resolve a problem informally and we do not grant an authorisation, we may serve an ‘Improvement Notice’ on the relevant person(s) (where there is a risk to health). We will specify in the Notice what works or measures are necessary to remedy the failure and the compliance period. It is an offence not to comply with an Improvement Notice and there is a right of appeal to the Magistrates’ Court.
Contact Information
Contact by Post

Environmental Safety and Hygiene
Tame Street Depot
Tame Street
Stalybridge
Tameside
SK15 1ST