HC Deb 20 March 1980 vol 981 cc316-7W
Mr. Dixon

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will publish a list of those areas which, in the 1975–76 national survey carried out by his Department to check lead levels in the water in homes, are above the EEC limit of 0.05 mg per litre; if he will seek to make grants available to householders in these areas towards the cost of replacing any lead plumbing which carries water for drinking, even where no other home improvements are made at the same time; and if he will seek powers to instruct local authorities to replace any lead plumbing in public buildings carrying drinking water with a lead content above the EEC limit.

Mr. Fox

The 1975 survey covered only 2,831 households selected at random from 128 carefully-chosen parliamentary constituencies. It was designed to give a picture of lead levels in water throughout the United Kingdom, not to identify specific areas with a problem. Since that survey was published, all water authorities have been engaged in follow-up work, involving many tens of thousands of samples, to define areas where action is needed. That work is continuing, but water is already being treated, or supplied from alternative sources, in the first areas to be identified. Replacement of lead plumbing is an expensive remedy, but will not be necessary except in a relatively few instances where water treatment may not cure the problem. I shall be considering how this and other necessary steps should be handled in the light of the forthcoming report of Professor Lawther's committee.

The EEC requirement to which the hon. Member refers is contained in a draft directive not yet formally adopted by the Council of Ministers, and is a more complex formulation than a simple limit of 0.05 mg per litre. I expect the programme of action already planned will be enough to ensure general compliance in this country when the directive does eventually bite.

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