Scottish water testing in nurseries from October 2018

Scotland’s water regulator will be requiring tests to be carried out in private nurseries in Scotland to make sure the amount of lead is below safe levels.

This has already been done or is in the process of being done in council-run nurseries and schools.

Scottish Water logoAlthough some nurseries won’t be tested for months or even years, NDNA advises members in Scotland to understand the risks and costs associated NOW so you can put measures in place to reduce any potential impact on your business.

  1. Why are nurseries being tested?
  2. When will this take place?
  3. What if my water has too much lead in it?
  4. Why would a sample fail?
  5. Who is responsible for any costs?
  6. What do I need to know from a health and safety perspective?
  7. What do I need to know from an insurance perspective?
  8. Where can i find out more information?

Why are nurseries being tested?

The Drinking Water Quality Regulator for Scotland (DWQR) is targeting businesses where nursery services are provided due to the serious health impacts of high levels of lead on children’s development. Those most at risk are babies, children, pregnant women and their unborn children.   

When will this take place?

The DWQR is initially sending letters to 142 premises in Aberdeen City, East Lothian, Inverclyde and West Dunbartonshire later in October 2018. These four local authorities have finished investigations into their own premises and are now free to start looking into private buildings which supply water to the public (e.g. children and staff). 

Eventually, all nurseries registered with the Care Inspectorate will be investigated by Scottish Water which has been commissioned to carry out the sampling. 

What if my water has too much lead in it?

If they find water samples that fail the lead standard – estimated to be about 10% of those due to be investigated - those premises will need to supply bottled water for drinking and cooking until remedial works have been carried out. 

Child drinking waterWhy would a sample fail?

The most likely cause of lead in water is having lead pipes, a lead tank or lead solder joints.  

Who is responsible for any costs?

Depending on the source of the lead, these works will be paid for either by Scottish Water or will be the responsibility of the nursery owner. Pipes beyond a boundary would be replaced free of charge by Scottish Water, those within the property boundary before the stopcock would be paid for by the property owner.

Most properties built before 1970 are most likely to have their water supply originally delivered by lead pipes.  In removing all lead pipes, any health concerns will be addressed.

Although this sounds very worrying, help is at hand. Even if the lead replacement is the owner’s responsibility, local authorities do have some discretionary funding available to pay towards
lead replacement costs. To find out more, contact your council’s Environmental Health department.

Nurseries which are tenants should check their contracts although it would usually be the property owner’s responsibility.

If your property is less than ten years old, contact your house builder.

What do I need to know from a health and safety perspective?

Nigel Lea of Citation advises:

  • You should be aware of the possibility of lead in your water supply as part of your general risk assessment of your premises and operations
  • Lead pipes are usually dull grey in colour and you can scratch them to reveal shiny silver metal 
  • A good safety precaution to take anyway is to run off a washing-up bowl of water first thing in the morning or if you have not used the tap for several hours to help clear it out.
  • Now could be a good time to revisit your legionella risk assessment to see if it is up to date, sufficient and compliant – Citation can offer NDNA member advice and also discounts for their Legionella services    
  • Keep staff informed about what is happening, let them know you will be checked and what the consequences are of having unsafe lead levels in the water. Be sure to keep in contact with DWQR.

What do I need to know from an insurance perspective?

Del Sharman of Pound Gates Insurance  advises:

  • Firstly, any nursery concerned about lead pipes and how their own insurance might respond should get in touch with their broker or insurance provider for detailed advice - generally speaking, cover provided by insurers in respect of contamination is limited
  • Public Liability insurance typically carries an exclusion around ‘pollution and contamination’. It will usually be the case that pollution and/or contamination will only be covered where it is caused by a sudden, identifiable, unintended and unexpected incident which takes place in its entirety at a specific moment in time and place during the period of insurance. For example, an outbreak of Ecoli at the premises which leads to illness would likely be covered, but a drinking water supply that has been running through lead pipes for many years would not be covered, as it would clearly not fall under the heading of ‘sudden’ or ‘unexpected’
  • Business Interruption insurance may provide cover for a loss of revenue (i.e. parents taking their children out of nursery) if illness is sustained by any person and can be traced to foreign or injurious matter in food or drink provided at the premises. However, this will not pick up any clean-up or repair/replacement costs associated with the incident 
  • If Directors & Officers insurance is in place, then cover may be available if a claim is brought directly against the Directors and/or Officers of the business for their failure to manage the risks associated with lead pipes and have the appropriate replacement work completed 
  • In line with the advice offered by Citation, insurers would expect nurseries to undertake the necessary risk assessment work to identify whether they have lead pipes within the property boundary and to have a plan in place for their replacement where they are found to exist. Any plan should also outline short-term solutions that can be put in place to minimise risks to health whilst permanent replacement is awaited. This could include only using bottled water for drinking and clearly labelling taps so they are not used for drinking water 
  • Nurseries that rent or lease their premises should ask their landlord whether there are any lead pipes. It would be advisable for nurseries in this situation to carefully check their lease/rental agreements to be clear on who will meet any costs associated with replacing lead pipes. 

More information

Read more information about the testing including some FAQs put together by the DWQR here

Scottish Water Customer Services 0800 0778778,