A WATER company has been accused of putting lives at risk because of pipe replacement work.
For more than a month, engineers for Veolia Three Valleys have been in Bushey Road, Bushey Close, Chiltern Close and Malvern Close, in Ickenham, replacing old iron water mains with more durable plastic pipes.
A letter was sent to all residents advising them of the work, but also implying it could cause a danger to their electrical systems.
This is because the earth cable from the mains panel is often connected to a water intake pipe in older houses.
The Veolia letter states that the company is not responsible for the differing types of electrical systems residents use, and electricians should be called individually.
Peter Smyth, who lives in Chiltern Close and is a qualified electrician, said: "I am grateful that we are having this work under-taken in respect of public hygiene and water quality. However, I am very concerned that they are undertaking this work with the full knowledge that they may be disrupting the electrical safety of some households.
"Though they have warned people in this communication, it does make those households responsible to get it checked.
"In some households, if not the majority, people will not be technically competent to know what sort of electrical earthing is in their home, and what's more, the householder is responsible for the cost and charges that would be incurred.
"I think the responsible people in this case must undertake the checking and costs of any change and not the householder. This is most important because there are a lot of very vulnerable people in this area, as there are throughout the country.
"The problem is that if the house loses its earthing, the whole house could become live, thus having the potential to kill the occupants."
Veolia Three Valleys apologised for the dis-tress caused by its letter and urged residents to get in touch. A spokesperson said: "We under-stand that the wording on our letters regarding the earthing of electrical systems may have caused some concern to some of our customers. We apologise if this is the case. This information is included in letters we send to customers when we are replacing water mains, as occasionally old metal water pipes can be the sole means of earthing domestic systems.
"We have a duty to make our customers aware of any precautions that may need to be taken. Should customers have any concerns, they should contact a qualified electrician."
* Who should pay the electrician's costs - Veolia or the residents affected? Email email@example.com.