Everything we know about why Surrey village warned against drinking tap water


Postcodes across Bramley have now been without tap water for five days as the village deals with the consequences of a large fuel leak. However, as the problem has been going on for years you would be forgiven for not understanding why a ‘do not drink’ notice has been issued now.

In fact the warnings over tap water issued on Thursday (May 30) was not the first ‘do not drink' notice to be issued in Bramley. St Catherine’s school has been unable to use tap water for more than two weeks already.

Why has Thames Water acted now?

In short, it's because the situation has changed. The water company has been carrying additional water sampling in Bramley since October 2023, following a sizable fuel leak at the village's petrol station.

Damage to an underground pipe, believed to have been done around eight years ago, means that a large amount of fuel has leaked out into the ground, and then into the water pipes.

The fuel line appears to have been damaged by large equipment (potentially a digger bucket or drill /saw) when some works were carried out at the site in 2016. Whoever caused the damage tried to repair it at the time. The repair failed at some point and leaks have occurred since, Thames Water said.

Test results on Thursday, May 30, indicated a possible deterioration in water quality for some of Bramley, meaning the ‘do not drink’ notice was put in place for more than 600 houses. Specifically, the sampling showed that there has been an increase in the levels of hydrocarbons in the water supply.

Thames Water are keen to emphasise that the village water supply has been safe to drink up to this point, shown by the testing that has been going on. They have committed to making these results public.

The company also says it can reassure the non affected houses that their water is safe, as the affected pipe has been isolated.

Postcodes affected by 'Do Not Drink' notice: GU5 0AH,GU5 0BA,GU5 0DU,GU5 0EJ,GU5 0AL,GU5 0BD,GU5 0DX,GU5 0EL,GU5 0AN,GU5 0BJ,GU5 0DY,GU5 0EP,GU5 0AP,GU5 0BP,GU5 0EA,GU5 0EQ,GU5 0AQ,GU5 0BU,GU5 0EB,GU5 0ET,GU5 0AU,GU5 0DF,GU5 0ED,GU5 0FB,GU5 0AW,GU5 0DH,GU5 0EE,GU5 0HB,GU5 0AX,GU5 0DP,GU5 0EF,GU5 0AY,GU5 0DS,GU5 0EG,GU5 0AZ,GU5 0DT,GU5 0EH

I’ve drunk the water, am I safe?

Thames Water said that those in the affected postcodes who have drunk tap water are likely to have only been exposed to hydrocarbons at low levels, which is unlikely to cause any long-term ill effects.

Thames Water said they have isolated the affected pipes so other residents who are currently unaffected by the notice don’t need to be concerned and they can continue to use their water as normal.

UKHSA advice regarding hydrocarbons in drinking water

  • When ingested drinking water with hydrocarbons present may lead to nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain, however low levels of exposure are not expected to cause long term health effects.

  • If hydrocarbons were present in drinking water, then people would detect an unpleasant odour from the water and therefore be very unlikely to drink it.

  • If residents have any symptoms or health concerns which include irritation to the eyes nose and throat, cough, a hoarse voice and breathing difficulties, it is recommended that they visit their GP or contact NHS 111.

  • If anyone is concerned that their drinking water has a hydrocarbon “petrol like” odour or if there is any other aesthetic concern with their water, please contact Thames Water’s customer centre on 0800 316 9800 so we can investigate further.

How long could the notice last?

Thames Water is working to remove the pipes that have been contaminated. It is unclear how long the ‘do not drink’ notice will be in place, but the work is expected to last between three and four weeks, with the water company saying health and well being of residents was its top priority.

The bottled water stations remain open until 9pm. at:

  • Bramley Community Library, High St, Bramley, Guildford, GU5 0HG (this location is a walk-up only site).

  • Artington Park & Ride, Old Portsmouth Road, Guildford, GU3 1LP (this location is suitable for customers in cars).

Is there an explosion risk?

he Bramley fuel leak is reported to have increased the likelihood of an explosion within the Openreach network and led to manhole covers in the village being sprayed with a "Do not Enter. Danger" warning. This is after the network was assessed to be unsafe to access because underground ducts have measured above the ‘Lower Explosive Limit’.

This is understood to mean that an ignition source could lead to an explosion. The full story can be found HERE.

Statements from Thames Water, Waverley Borough Council and ASDA

Tess Fayers, Operations Director for the Thames Valley and Home Counties said: “We are asking 617 Bramley properties not to drink the tap water following recent water sampling results.

“The health and safety of our customers is our number one priority, and we would like to reassure residents that this is a precautionary measure. We are in the process of delivering letters and bottled water to the affected properties. We are also identifying locations to set-up bottled water stations and we will share this information with our customers as soon as possible.

“We are already on site in the village proactively replacing sections of our pipes on Horsham Road to reduce the risk to our customers.”

A Waverley Borough Council spokesperson, said: “We are working closely with Thames Water and other agencies to try and mitigate the impact on residents, and we will support residents wherever possible.”

An Asda spokesperson said: “We are continuing to work closely with Thames Water and other partners to address the issues we inherited after acquiring the Bramley PFS site. We recognise the impact this has had on the residents of Bramley and share their frustrations. We are committed to working with all parties to resolve this situation as quickly as possible.”

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