Leaking water pipes blamed for ‘dodgy tummies’, Sheffield research shows

Dr Richard Collins, lecturer in Water Engineering at Sheffield University
Dr Richard Collins, lecturer in Water Engineering at Sheffield University
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A new study by Sheffield University has found drinking water could be ‘failing safety tests’ if detected due to leaking water pipes letting in harmful elements.

Findings by engineers at the University of Sheffield show contaminants can enter pipes through leaks and be transported through the network.

It found groundwater from around the pipe – which often contains harmful contaminants – can be sucked in through pressure drops and remain in the pipe travelling through to the glass.

Dr Richard Collins, lecturer in Water Engineering in the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, said: “Our research shows that contaminants that enter through a leaking pipe could be reaching consumers’ taps, and although this will be at very low concentrations, it would fail the safety tests if detected.”

UK drinking water is tested for harmful contaminants and complies with the regulations over 99 per cent of the time. But any failure is cause for concern, according to lead researcher Professor Joby Boxall.

He said: “Many of us will have had a ‘dodgy tummy’ in the past that we couldn’t quite explain, often putting it down to something we’d eaten. It now seems possible that some of these illnesses could have been caused not by food, but by water.”

As a result of University of Sheffield research, UK water companies are now training field staff to limit pressure drops taking place which can cause leaks.

A Yorkshire Water spokesperson said: “Any potential risks related to pressure transients is something we are already very much aware of and as such special training is in place to help our staff manage our pipe network to the highest standards.”