Scottish tests find lead in drinking water

Executive takes action after survey reveals 2.5% of new homes set to breach 2013 EU limit

Scottish health and environment ministers yesterday promised robust action to "crack down on illegal use of lead solder" after traces of the heavy metal were found in the water supplies of 2.5% of new homes. Sue Deacon and Sam Galbraith announced that they would extend the time limit for prosecuting offenders, increase maximum fines for anyone prosecuted and strengthen efforts to work with the plumbing industry. The executive is also considering a complete ban on use of lead solder in construction.

Under the revised EU drinking water directive, an existing European limit on lead in drinking water of 50 micrograms per litre (ug/l) will fall to 10ug/l in 2013. The executive said its survey had revealed that 0.5% of over 600 new houses surveyed had lead levels in breach of existing law and 2.5% had concentrations above the 2013 limit.

"I am appalled to discover that illegal construction practice means that some people in new homes have suffered unsafe levels of lead in their domestic water," commented Ms Deacon. "Such practices breach the water byelaws. This is unacceptable."

* In a related development, the Scottish environment minister Sam Galbraith today announced an improvement in drinking water quality in 1999. Compared with 1998, there was a 38% reduction in the number of samples failing microbiological standards and a 31% cut in samples containing trihalomethane disinfection by-products. Overall, testing showed 98.6% compliance with EU standards.

Follow Up:
Scottish executive, tel: +44 131 556 8400, and press releases on lead solder and 1999 drinking water quality.

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