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Two-pipe flues in place on CO poisoning estate

The housing development where a young woman died from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning contains boilers which feature a two-pipe flue system, H&V News has learned.

In February, 26-year-old Elouise Littlewood died in her flat on the
Bedfont Lakes development in Hounslow, just two months after she moved in. Her 32-year-old partner remains seriously ill in hospital.

was developed and built by Barratt Developments. The site was signed off to Notting Hill Housing in December last year. According to Notting Hill, Barratt retains responsibility for all the installed gas systems and appliances.

Although legal, some installers have issues with two-pipe flue systems. Many consider their deployment to be problematic. Because some boiler appliance manufacturers are designing flues which are up to 60 metres long, this allows building designers to position central heating appliances away from external walls.

The longer the flue, the higher the risk of potential flaws in the system and the further any vented carbon monoxide has to travel before it leaves the building if the system is faulty. Since there are no visual indications that a system is faulty, an installer would need to inspect every joint, a costly and lengthy process.

In addition, these flues, which often travel through more than one property, also present full testing, inspection, maintenance and servicing problems.

A heating engineer, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “There are blocks of flats throughout
London where hundreds of these systems have been installed. This presents logistical problems for installers who need to access them during the routine maintenance or servicing of flues.

“Because some flues are concealed in a ceiling void, they may be too high up to be reached by small ladders carried in a van. There even might be health and safety issues working off ladders which necessitate hiring specialist platforms every time a repair or warranty call or service needs to be carried out.”

Barratt Developments refused to confirm whether the boilers in the
Bedfont Lakes development featured two-pipe flue systems. It also refused to confirm whether the flats had received a Declaration of Safety Certificate (DSC) from CORGI. A DSC confirms that the work was undertaken by a CORGI-registered installer and was carried out in accordance with the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations.

All flats were issued with gas safety certificates. “All our gas central heating systems are installed by independent CORGI-registered installers,” Barratt said in a statement.

“We are continuing to work tirelessly with all those concerned to establish as soon as possible the exact cause of what happened. We have staff on site and have engaged independent experts, as well as British Gas, who are assisting in identifying the issues and who are ready to carry out any necessary remedial work.”

A spokesperson added: “We’re not going into any more detail at this stage because the investigation is still ongoing.”

H&V News
understands that the Metropolitan Police, who are investigating the incident with the Health and Safety Executive, may bring corporate manslaughter charges against any party deemed to have failed in its duty to prevent the incident from occurring.