Risk assessments of private water supplies ?

Recently, several residents in Garsdale have been approached without warning by contractors from Tobin Consulting (UK), a subsidiary of a Tobin Consultancy in Ireland, and been told that they need to have a water risk assessment carried out.

The facts are as follows:

In 2009, government passed legislation that requires the local autorities (SLDC) to carry out risk assessments every 5 years for all private water supplies falling into regulation 9 or 10; that is, all supplies shared between two or more properties, and supplies to all properties with a commercial/public use (such as holiday lets and anywhere that is a permanent place of work for an employee). Supplies serving only a single home are exempt.

In November 2014 SLDC ran a tender and subsequently appointed Tobin (UK) to carry out risk assessments on their behalf. They also sent out letters to householders around January 2015, but most people don’t seem to have received one, even people who are on the SLDC list for sampling every 1, 3 or 5 years. Apparently, SLDC sent out a questionnaire about people’s water supply in 2010 (which like all surveys,  most people didn’t return) and the few replies to this were used for the list of supplies Tobin has been given.

The legislation sets a cap of max £500 per risk assessment. This is intended to cover risk assessments for supplies serving upto 50 properties, which would then split the cost. The SLDC have announced that most risk assessments are expected to cost £300 or less. They have also set an hourly rate of £40 for the risk assessments. The Parish Council are concerned that firstly, the cost per household will be much greater, as most of our shared supplies serve only 2 or 3 properties. Secondly, that since the cost does not come out of the SLDC budget, there is no incentive for them to ensure that Tobin keep the cost down. To put the cost in perspective,  an EPC survey for a house which involves more complex issues and calculations typically costs less than £100.

The other and potentially more costly issue for house holders to be aware of is that not only do we have to pay for the risk assessment every 5 years or less, BUT – SLDC can then serve an enforcement notice on the householder to carry out any improvement works to the supply they deem necessary. Which could cost far more than just the risk assessment. And unlike when the water samples failed in the past, they now have the power to enforce it. In practice, any householder who believes their shared supply may require additional work, may want to consider the cost of setting up an alternative single supply instead.

Please note, the risk assessments are completely separate from the current SLDC water sampling, which will carry on at the same interval and cost as previously – the results from the sampling will however be used in the risk assessments.

The Parish council is currently discussing other options for risk assessments with SLDC, such as carrying out your own risk assessment and just submitting it for auditing, and approving alternative suitably qualified risk assessors.

In the meantime, house holders can make a start and help reduce the cost of their risk assessments by completing the following pre-survey documentation and collecting the required documentation. A table to complete can be downloaded from the Defra website here.

One document that will likely be required is a logbook of water system inspections; this is simply a list of dates that the system was checked, and what you found/did if anything. For example, an entry could read:  27/9: checked tank. Overflow not running; intake in stream blocked by leaves; cleared leaves, now OK.

The Defra website also has a template for the actual risk assessment and explanatory notes for download here

The full legislative guide (good for insomnia) can be downloaded here

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