Piping up for approval

Not adhering to industry approvals and guidelines is a big mistake – and could be very costly. James Roper explains why.

There are many approvals and regulations that govern the water treatment industry and should be considered as a priority when specifying products and systems for water treatment applications. Despite this, some contractors and specifiers seem to be ignoring the potential dangers that come as a result of installing unapproved systems, in favour of cutting costs.

The Water Regulations are crucial in governing the water treatment industry and not adhering to them could have disastrous consequences. All pipework must meet the requirements of the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999.

Pipework upstream of the consumer’s stop valve must also comply with the Water Industry Act 1991 (2003) Section 69 and with the Water Supply (Water Quality) Regulations 2000 / 2001 (Regulation 31). A letter of approval from the Secretary of State confirms compliance with Regulation 31. Pipework downstream of the consumer’s stop valve must also comply with the UK (Water) Regulators Specification. Compliance is demonstrated by an

approval certificate from WRAS (Water Regulations Advisory Scheme).

Water authorities have a responsibility to meet these requirements, in order to ensure they are not putting at risk the health of those within the community they serve. If a water authority is found not to be complying with the water regulations, either Ofwat or Defra can take action against the company. Depending on the scale of the breach, this could mean taking legal action to ensure the company replaces products and systems or, in the worst cases, a financial penalty of up to 10% of the company’s turnover can be imposed.

It is not solely the responsibility of the water authority to ensure the regulations are met; there are consequences, for non-compliance with regulations, for all parties involved in the water treatment chain, from water authorities through to installers, contractors and specifiers. Starting at the top of the chain, if water authorities do not dictate to contractors that all systems and products, which are being installed as part of a project, need to be Regulation 31 approved products, then they could face prosecution.

If water authorities do state this, but then the contractor does not take this on board and goes ahead with installing unapproved products, they could be requested to replace the entire installation with approved products, at their own cost. As the regulations become stricter, this is becoming more of a risk for contractors; as they look to specify cost effective products, approvals are often overlooked.

If a situation arises, in which unapproved products have been installed and water becomes contaminated as a result, the end user can sue the water authority, in addition to any action taken by Ofwat or Defra. This highlights the importance of approvals and reinforces the message that the first question anyone should ask when specifying or installing products for water treatment applications, is “are the products approved?”.

Plastic pipework has long been the material of choice for water treatment applications, but Durapipe UK is advising not to presume that a product has the right approvals just because it is the system that has always been used. This is particularly true of refurbishment projects, when contractors replace the pipework with a like-for-like product, but do not check that it still has approval, or in some cases that it ever did.

The requirements to meet approvals change over time and the testing requirements to demonstrate compliance with Regulation 31 have become more stringent over recent years. At one time, plastic pipework material that used lead based stabilisers was approved, but this is no longer the case and the public is now protected from the risk of such substances leaching out into the drinking water and causing contamination. This means that certain systems that once had approval will no longer meet the requirements.

At Durapipe UK, we share the objectives of water authorities, WRAS and the UK Water Regulator to provide drinking water of the highest quality and so is committed to providing products that meet and exceed the stringent standards that exist in the UK. As a result, the pipework manufacturer is constantly investing in developing its products in line with the evolving regulations; it has now removed all lead and tin stabilisers from its PVC-U pipework range and replaced them with calcium-zinc based stabilisers to ensure there is no risk of contamination.

Not all plastic pipework systems are the same; Durapipe FIP PVC-U pipes and fittings are the only fully approved PVC-U system available on the market. By installing these systems, water authorities and contractors can be reassured that they are installing products that are safe to use with drinking water and will not result in any legal action or penalties from the regulatory bodies. They will also avoid receiving complaints from consumers about unpleasant odour and flavour of their drinking water.

The majority of consumers do not have a choice about where their drinking water comes from, so they trust that it is safe to drink. Therefore, it is the responsibility of water authorities to ensure that they are conforming to all water regulations so they do not lose the trust of the public and avoid facing legal and financial implications from the industry regulators.

If contractors want to continue to win business from the water treatment industry, they need to ensure they are checking approvals so that water authorities can be confident they are installing safe products.

James Roper is industrial brand manager for Durapipe UK. www.durapipe.co.uk

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