No Respite for Residents in Battle over Vibrating Water Pipe

Thames Water refusing to accept responsibility for noise

Kingswood Road in Fulham
Kingswood Road in Fulham

An eighteen-month long battle by residents of Kingswood Road in Fulham to have something done about noise from a vibrating water pipe has no ending in site.

In February 2021 Brendan & Vivian Lagan, who live on Branksea Street, on the corner of Kingswood Road, reported a droning noise which appeared to be coming from pipes, to their landlord. The noise was particularly bad early morning and evening but intermittent all day

The landlord sent a plumber to investigate and floorboards were pulled up and plasterwork was removed in an attempt to find the source of the noise. The search was unsuccessful and, even when the pressure on the system was reduced and it was flushed, the noise, which is described as being as loud ‘standing beside a builder using a hammer drill on a concrete wall’, continued.

The problem was reported to Thames Water in April 2021 and an engineer came to the property to change the meter box but that did not help and the water company did not respond to further requests from the landlord for action to be taken. Eventually the landlord wrote to the CEO of Thames Water, Sarah Bentley and a promise was made that a case manager would take over the matter and it would be treated as urgent.

In August of that year, Thames Water replaced a piece of pipework between the outside stop cock and main water pipe but the problem continued so the engineers came to the conclusion the vibration was from the main supply pipe.

However, after another visit to the site in August, Thames Water stated that the problem is being caused by a high voltage cable and referred the landlord to UK Power Networks (UKPN). UKPN did its own investigation and concludes that a substation which was 75 metres away from the property was too far away to cause such noise, a claim which was confirmed by an independent noise consultant employed by Thames Water. The consultant also noted that the noise ceased when a cold-water tap was turned on which would suggest that an external factor was not responsible for the vibration.

Another resident of a ground floor flat on Kingwood Road reported that since the addition of a new basement, they have heard a loud but intermittent noise coming from their shower room which is next to the street. Towards the end of last year, a Thames Water engineer knocked on their door saying he was acting on a complaint about noise coming from a pipe. When he inspected the property, according to the resident he said that he believed it was coming from a vibrating Thames Water pipe. The noise is such that anyone sleeping in the bedroom where it is loudest is kept awake.

In November Thames Water put acoustic loggers into the area. The results of these loggers were only received by the landlord and tenants through the Water Redress Scheme on 15 July 2022. These show a high level of noise under the pavement where there is Thames Water equipment by the corner of Kingwood Road and Wyfold Road.

Thames Water pipework at the corner of Wyford Road and Kingwood Road with a leak detector installed Thames Water pipework at the corner of Wyford Road and Kingwood Road with a leak detector installed

Environmental Services at Hammersmith & Fulham Council was also contacted around this time, but it said that it could not become involved until the source of the noise had been identified.

A representative of the landlord contacted the Consumer Council for Water ( CCW) in January of this year but it was unable to take action other than to point out that it would be possible to apply to the Water Redress Scheme (WATRS) within 6 months which Mr Lagan did this June. WATRS aims to help resolve disputes between water providers and customers that have reached deadlock.

In the meantime, a report from mechanical and electrical systems, JC Design, commissioned by the landlord stated, “something within the Thames Water infrastructure is causing rapid pulsations within the water supply”. It goes on to conclude the problem is to do with the water pressure from within the Thames Water network.

Despite this, in August a preliminary decision from WATRS states that there is no need for Thames Water to take any action on the matter despite none of the reports submitted eliminating the possibility that the water company’s infrastructure was responsible for the noise. Subsequent representations have been made WATRS and a final decision is awaited. In the meantime, a complaint has been made to the Noise & Nuisance Team at the council.

The Lagans and their landlord are disputing that the adjudicator’s view that Thames Water has made all reasonable efforts to investigate the problem and search for the source of the noise and vibration.

For now, the problem continues unabated. When was asked for an update from Mr Lagan he said, 2No developments - a general lack of urgency or concern from all those in places of authority that you might expect to be able to help.”

A Thames Water spokesperson said, “We were contacted in April 2021 regarding pipe noise near a property in Branksea Street. Our investigations revealed that the noise was coming from pipes within the customers property and needed to be resolved by the landlord. If they’d like to contact us again to investigate, we’d be happy to look into it.”

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September 5, 2022