§ Mr. Simon Hughes
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what information his Department has received from the drinking water inspectorate on the number of water supply zones which exceed 15 mg/litres in lead content; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Maclean
The drinking water inspectorate has received data on lead in water supplies from the water companies of England and Wales under the requirements of the information direction. The data relate to the concentration of lead in water supplies taken from consumers' taps in 1991, being set out in concentration bands of 10µg/1. Information was not sought specifically in relation to 15µg/1.
In 1991, approximately 77,000 samples from 2,565 water supply zones were analysed for lead: 76.7 per cent. contained 10µg/1 or less; 10.6 per cent. contained between 11 and 20µg/1; and 3.7 per cent. contained more than 50µg/1, the standard set in the Water Supply (Water Quality) Regulations 1989. At least one sample taken during 1991 from 1,908, 1,396 and 941 zones respectively contained more than 10, 20 and 50µg/1 of lead. In each zone where there is a risk of the water exceeding the lead standard because of lead dissolved from consumers' pipes, companies are evaluating and, where appropriate, installing treatment to reduce the plumbosolvency of the water.