Leeds resident discovers lead contaminated water - after drinking it for 15 years

A woman from near Leeds has told of her horror after discovering lead contamination in her tap water, which has been drinking for 15 years.

By Abbey Maclure
Thursday, 19th December 2019, 11:45 am
Gillian Powell, 57, is concerned that lead pipes could be contaminating water on her whole street
Gillian Powell, 57, is concerned that lead pipes could be contaminating water on her whole street

Gillian Powell, aged 57, recently discovered that she had lead piping under the floorboards of her house on The Crescent in Tingley.

Using Yorkshire Water's free testing service, she discovered high levels of lead in her tap water and was advised to only drink bottled water until an inspection was complete.

Ms Powell has lived at the property for more than 15 years and is concerned that her three children could have been harmed by lead poisoning.

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Ms Powell's family are drinking four to five large bottles of water a day, which she struggles to carry with a broken arm

She now lives with her partner, her adult son and his girlfriend and the family are buying four to five two litre bottles a day, which Yorkshire Water has promised to reimburse.

After breaking her arm, Ms Powell now struggles to carry the bottles home from the shops and relies on supermarket deliveries, which have a minimum spend of £40.

Ms Powell said: "Luckily we're all adults so the effect is probably reduced, but I have a three-year-old grandson who has been visiting me every Friday since he was six months old.

"I've been making up his milk using the water, I don't know what I've passed on. I'm worried about the effect it could have had on my kids, on their joints.

"It makes you feel sick stuff like this, I had no idea that we had lead pipes. How many other people might have the same, all of them with kids?"

According to NHS advice, exposure to lead contamination is particularly harmful to unborn babies and young children, as children absorb more lead than adults due to their growing bones.

But lead exposure via drinking contaminated water can also result in illness in adults.

Ms Powell said: "I would urge anyone in a property that pre-dates 1970 to get your water checked with the free service.

"I didn't even give it a thought before, I just thought whatever comes out your taps would be alright."

Although Yorkshire Water is not responsible for the lead piping under Ms Powell's property, there are concerns that shared pipes under the street may also be made of lead.

Yorkshire Water will replace any of its lead piping for free if residents are prepared to replace their lead supply pipe - which runs from the boundary of the property to the point of entry into the building.

However, workers could not find the shared pipes that serve properties on The Crescent and will have to dig down to find out if they are also made of lead.

A Yorkshire Water spokesperson said: "The samples we took at Ms Powell’s property show that there is lead pipework present so we visited to check whether the pipework we’re responsible for is made of lead.

"There’s been a delay in identifying the specific location of our pipe and we need to dig down to check where it is.

"We’re sorry there’s been a delay doing this and we’re in touch with Ms Powell to keep her updated on what we’re doing.

"If our pipe is lead, we will then replace it and let the customer know so they can arrange to replace their pipework at the same time if they choose.”

Ms Powell said work is yet to start on locating the pipes and she has been given no indication of when the pipes will be replaced.

What should I do if I think I have lead pipes?

If your house was built before 1970 then there may be a small chance the pipe which connects your property to the water main in the street is made of lead.

If you believe your property could have lead piping, contact Yorkshire Water who will take a free sample.

Residents who think they could be affected are advised to run their water for at least three minutes in the morning to get rid of standing water in the pipes.