Consumer: Team of leak-listeners is ready for winter surge in burst and blocked pipes

Lee Leonard, leak specialist at Yorkshire Water
Lee Leonard, leak specialist at Yorkshire Water
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A TEAM of 100 leak and blockage-busting specialists is bracing itself for its busiest time of the year in Leeds as winter begins to bite.

The onset of the cold snap always brings with it an increase of up to 50per cent in bursts to water pipes and mains.

And to help, Yorkshire Water’s expert team will be descending on streets all over the city. Last winter they dealt with almost 1,000 bursts in Leeds alone.

And while the squad will be armed with a range of hi-tech detection gadgets, it is their trademark ‘listening sticks’, first introduced around 150 years ago, that remain one of the most reliable ways of identifying the source of a leak.

The sticks allow inspectors to identify a leak from up to 500 metres away using just their hearing.

The reliable 1.5m-long devices have an earpiece on one end and the inspector places the other onto a stop tap or valve to listen out for the constant noise generated by water escaping from a pipe.

In fact, Yorkshire Water’s experts are so well trained that they can even tell what type of leak they’re facing just by the sound – a high-pitched noise represents a small leak, while a low sound could be a larger burst or split.

Tony O’Shea, Yorkshire Water’s Leakage and Metering Manager, said: “Being able to locate a leak just based on what you’re hearing is a real skill which can take years of experience to develop.

“Despite all the clever pieces of kit that have come along in recent years, 99 per cent of leaks will be found with the help of a listening stick. While we’ve got the experts and devices in place to help us deal with bursts when they do come along, we’d still like to ask all of our customers across Leeds to make sure they’re winter ready by following our tips.”

Last year, Yorkshire Water’s leakage team dealt with more than 6,000 bursts or leaks over the winter period. The firm has now issued some winter-ready tips to help save customers money, prevent bursts or blockages and more.

1, Spot the potential problems – Look out for areas that could be exposed to freezing temperatures, like the garage, garden, shed, loft or outside walls.

2. Protect your pipes and taps – After identifying the problem areas – wrap the pipes at risk in lagging

3. Keep your central heating ticking over – Leave the heating on a constant low temperature.

4. Get to grips with your stop tap – If a burst does happen, it’s important you know where your stop tap is and how to shut it off

5. Prepare for the worst – Have a plan of what to do if the worst does happen.