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Chemicals blamed for ‘foul-smelling’ water

February 26, 2010 at 3:00 am

Thames Water has stopped sucking its supplies out of the River Lee in London after hundreds of customers complained of ‘foul-smelling’ drinking water. Experts have confirmed that chemical contamination is responsible for the smell: namely, the products, 2-EDD and 2-EMD, both found in manufacturing plants.

Since the beginning of February, 300 householders have taken umbrage with the quality of water coming out of their taps, forcing the utilities firm to revert to water taken from the River Thames. The affected households are in the Walthamstow area of northeast London, some eleven miles from the city centre.

Walthamstow is home to six reservoirs and a major pumping station, which is believed to be the source of the problem. The pump house provides a fraction of the 2,600m litres of water that the Thames Valley drinks on a daily basis.

The discovery, which was reported on Saturday morning, puts the plug on a week of speculation by water experts, who feared that changes in the river’s chemistry were to blame for the obnoxious odour. The relationship between micro-organisms and naturally occurring sulphites can produce an ‘eggy’ smell in rivers.

Nobody knows how the two chemicals found their way into the Walthamstow water supply, but at present levels, they present no threat to human life. Local wildlife is also immune to the contaminants. Thames Water is maintaining a dialogue with the local Health Protection Agency, who are said to be supportive of the investigation.

The utilities firm is currently replacing ancient pipes in the London area, equating to 1,300 miles of plumbing. Thames Water has more than 8m customers in the southeast of England.

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Thames Water backs out of Ofwat confrontation

February 5, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Thames Water, the biggest water company in the UK, has agreed to a settlement from Ofwat to which it had put up strong resistance over the last few months. It involves the amount by which it is able to increase customer bills over the next five years.

Initially, Thames Water was asking to be allowed to raise bills by 17% before inflation from the period between 2010 and 2015. Ofwat rejected this, stating that it would have to freeze the bills over this period.

This was unacceptable for Thames Water, and a period of lobbying followed where it attempted to get the limit increased. Finally, Ofwat relented slightly in November, but still limited the bill increases to 3%, much lower than Thames Water had hoped for.

Thames Water then had to decide whether to take its case to the Competition Commission to try and get the limits increased further. However, the recent announcement confirms that it will not be taking this measure and will accept the 3% rise in bills.

Thames Water serves 8.5 million customers in London and the Thames Valley. It is keen to improve its network over the next five years, including making huge improvements to the ancient and broken pipes, and it is planning to spend about £5 billion on this, even though it had originally planned £5.5 billion.

Other works that it is planning are the construction of a tunnel which will reduce the overflow from the sewerage system and lead to lower levels of pollution in the Thames. It is also planning to make improvements to five sewage works in London, and wants to install 370,000 water meters in its customers’ homes.

Although Thames Water will not be contesting the limits, Bristol Water has not accepted Ofwat’s decision and has appealed to the Competition Commission. It wants a big hike in prices but has been limited to 7%.

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