Saturday, 31 January 2009

The Leak Saga

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For the sake of clarity, I’ve so far omitted the parallel saga of the leak in the mains water pipe in the communal entrance hall downstairs. (Click on the Wandsworth tag to read the story so far…)

It’s coming up to three years since I first reported the leak to Ms Parris on 5th May 2006. It’s not a gushing leak, just a gradual and inconsistent seepage from the valve, but on occasion the water has reached carpet level.

Because the leak is on the mains, the water needs to be turned off at the external stop valve in order to carry out the repair. My plumber, who first spotted the leak, told me he couldn't find the external stop valve in the pavement - it's usually directly outside the property. He also said you couldn't freeze the pipes either as there wasn't enough room to access them.

Anyway, shortly after Ms Parris had been round to inspect my flat in May 2006 and had also seen the leak, Council contractors arrived unannounced to repair it. I told them they couldn’t repair it until the external valve had been found and, sure enough, after having a look they told me they couldn’t repair it.

I phoned Ms Parris shortly afterwards. She told me that the contractors had said they’d repaired the leak. I told her this wasn’t true and that she’d have to get Thames Water to find the external stop valve first. Subsequently, I wrote several times to Ms Parris, enquiring as to progress. She didn't reply. And so, around the end of 2006, I began to chase Thames Water myself, as Ms Parris clearly wasn’t planning to do her job any time soon.

The Thames Water game went like this. I would call Thames Water and give all my details, explain the problem, and they’d say someone would call me back within 24 hours to arrange an appointment. If I missed that call, they wouldn’t try calling again. I’d have to go back to square one and call the call centre, explain it all again, to be promised another call back. Sometimes, the call centre would try to tell me that Thames Water don’t come to investigate stop valve location.

Thames Water dug up the pavement three times without success. By the summer of 2008 I was beginning to get desperate and one day I flipped and insisted on speaking to the manager. It worked; I got put through to a top secret, crack-team, department of Thames Water. The man said he would personally ensure that the stop valve would be located, and would not rest till this objective had been achieved. He even gave me a direct line phone number to bypass the call centre routine.

A special Thames Water engineer arrived the next day and found the stop valve in about ten minutes. I had mixed feelings: joy that the 18 month search was finally over, mingled with the face-palming knowledge that the hours spent on the phone to Thames Water, the waiting in for appointments, the digging, could all have been avoided if they'd sent this guy round in the first place.

* * * * *

By this time, beige fungus was growing out of the carpet in the communal hall, and the damp was spreading up the wall. I sent photos with my letter to the Director of Housing (17th July 2008), gave details of the problem, and the location of the exterior stop valve.

Mr Crawley’s letter of 22nd August 2008 said he was ‘currently liaising with the Senior Building Maintenance Inspector’; his letter of 16th September, however, said he had spoken with Thames Water and unfortunately they were unwilling to discuss the matter for reasons of data protection. I replied, pointing out that Thames Water’s involvement was unnecessary due to the fact that the exterior stop valve had already been located, as explained in my letter of 17th July.

At the end of November 2008, a Council contractor came to have a look at it. That was two months ago. Still waiting for them to come back and actually repair the leak.


  1. I also rent a council flat so understand your problem. I’ve complained time and time again about Mrs Muboko on the eighteenth floor but nothing is ever done. Her budgies twitter constantly, and she slams doors really loudly when she gets back from bingo at the community centre - always after 11pm, later at weekends.

    My mate Darren pissed through her letterbox and threatened to firebomb her mobility scooter, but I think he took things too far.

    Do you play bingo?


  2. No, Wayne. I do not play bingo.


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