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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