Residents have hit out at a South London council after it told them to run their taps to remove lead from drinking water.

Lambeth Council made the suggestion in a letter telling families in Dorchester Court that it no longer felt there was a risk to their health and safety. 

The local authority handed the estate’s owner and managing agent an improvement notice in March 2022, after dangerous levels of lead were found in residents’ drinking water. 

Wandsworth Times: Letter from Lambeth Council to residents of Dorchester Court (photo: Robert Firth)Letter from Lambeth Council to residents of Dorchester Court (photo: Robert Firth)

Improvement notices are a legal document that councils can issue when they believe there is a risk to the health and safety of people living in a property.

MyLondon reported at the time that 60 of the 96 flats on the estate tested positive for dangerous levels of lead in the water. 

A total of 40 of the flats had lead levels above the legal limit and residents said were forced to drink bottled water for six weeks. 

Exposure to lead can be especially harmful to unborn babies and young children.

The improvement notice served by the council on Dorchester Court’s then owner Heinrich Feldman, and managing agent Property Partners, ordered them to ensure people had access to safe drinking water within four months. 

Since then residents have had lead filters fitted to their taps but they are still waiting for the pipes to be replaced.

Lambeth Council has said it is working with the freeholder – a company previously owned by Mr Feldman who died in March – and Thames Water to have the lead pipes removed.

In a letter that residents received last week, the council informed them they were removing the improvement notice following an appeal from the estate’s freeholder.

The council said it agreed it was “appropriate” to revoke the notice due to the works carried out at Dorchester Court since it was issued. 

The letter dated August 16 reads: “The council has reviewed its position and determined that it is appropriate to revoke the Improvement Notice […] We however continue to encourage residents to follow flushing advice: When water has been standing overnight for long periods in the pipework, flush the cold kitchen tap for approximately two minutes before using for cooking or drinking. This should clear any water that has been standing in the lead pipework.”

Lucy McGarry, who moved into Dorchester Court two months ago, said the situation was unacceptable.

The 24-year-old said: “It’s appalling. I moved in two months ago but we were never told about the lead issue and I never googled the place.

"It’s all well and good telling people to flush out the lead but with the cost of living going up you can’t expect everyone to be able to run the taps.”

Seb Braun, who has lived in his two-bed flat on the estate for years, said: “Unfortunately it’s not surprising, they are just trying to swerve doing anything for us. 

"It was funny that on the letter it made it seem like it was a gesture of goodwill when the council forced them to install the filters.

“It’s not exactly cheap to live here either.

"It’s £1,600 a month in total for a two bed.

"I live here because the community is amazing but they don’t look after it and they do the bare minimum to it.” 

Dorchester Court Tenants’ Union said it was disappointed at the council’s decision to revoke the improvement notice.

In a thread on Twitter, it wrote: “We’re all distressed after receiving letter from @LambethCouncil revoking past improvement notice on  lead hazards. 

"We’re thankful of the many hours of hard work put in by @lambeth_council to hold [the] landlord accountable, but disappointed to see them backing off from the landlord on this issue and revoking the notice.”

It added that there were no UK standards for lead removal filters and said that bathroom taps on the estate still hadn’t been tested for water quality. 

Lambeth Council said: “We have been working with the freeholder over many months to resolve the lead issue and other problems at Dorchester Court. We remain committed to supporting residents to resolve all the ongoing issues at the estate.

“We will contact the freeholder and managing agent to get an update on the renewal of the filters that have been fitted.

"We will be monitoring the position closely and shall work with the freeholder, Thames Water and others to secure the safe and timely removal of the offending lead pipes.

“In addition to this work, this week we will begin a re-inspection programme at Dorchester Court, along with the communal areas, to reassess and confirm the outstanding disrepair matters for each of the flats that are still occupied.”

Property Partners has been contacted.