Residents at a block of flats “are living in fear” of toxic fumes as ongoing contamination from raw sewage has been left unresolved for almost a year.

One leaseholder first reported their concerns about carcinogenic gases entering their flat at the Hillcrest Estate in Highgate to Haringey Council in early January.

Since then, multiple other residents in the same block – Mountbatten House – have contacted the council, but they say nothing has been done to resolve the problem.

Affected neighbours believe raw sewage contamination on the estate could be behind the “high levels” of toxic gases they say they have measured in their flats.

One leaseholder, who did not wish to be named, has measured these ‘volatile organic compounds (VOCs)’ in their flat over the last year using devices that record background atmosphere contamination.

VOCs are a large group of chemicals that when vaporised in high quantities can be harmful and even carcinogenic.

Residents say that they have had symptoms including burning eyes, nose and throat, asthma, headaches, nausea, light-headedness, and nosebleeds, raising fears their health is being directly impacted by the contamination issue.

Chiara Bragoli, a leaseholder who has lived on the ground floor of Mountbatten House with her partner for the past three years, told Ham and High that widespread “disrepair” on the estate is likely to blame.

She said: “Whether it’s [caused by] pipework or drainage – there’s often sewage or dirty-looking water collecting in low-lying areas around the building.”

Ham & High: Dirty water pictured around Mountbatten HouseDirty water pictured around Mountbatten House (Image: Mountbatten House residents)

Ms Bragoli added: “We feel like we’re not necessarily affected by the symptoms ourselves.

“But it’s almost like a silent killer, that’s almost scarier. What has it done that I’m not even aware of?”

Residents have said that they have been forced to leave windows and fire doors open to ventilate their homes, something they claim is a serious safety concern.

One leaseholder was forced to spend the night in their car after they became increasingly concerned about the high levels of VOCs in their flat.

Thames Water has confirmed that it investigated reports of "sewer gas" at Mountbatten House at the start of September.

The utility company said it found "no defects" to its sewers and advised residents the problems were "a private matter". 

An external drainage company contracted by concerned residents to carry out a limited drainage survey found many pipes were significantly corroded and obstructed.

Residents say this suggests the issue lies in piping between flats, the maintenance of which they claim Haringey Council is responsible for as the freeholder of the building.

Many are now demanding that the council carries out a full survey of the infrastructure in the block, and takes appropriate remedial action immediately.

Ms Bragoli said: “The whole thing is just going on for far too long, it just needs to be done holistically and with such a sense of urgency that it fills us with some relief.”

She added: “It was in the springtime that we were taking more of an interest and the fact that it’s got to the point we’re at now, where still nothing has happened, is beyond shocking.”

William Britain, chair of community group the Highgate Society, said: “The situation cannot be allowed to continue, and Haringey must now take clear and effective action.”

Cllr Sarah Williams, Haringey's cabinet member for housing services, private renters and planning, said: “We fully understand and appreciate the concern this is causing residents at Mountbatten House and are working hard to get the issues sorted. 

“Our investigations so far indicate the source of the unpleasant smell relates to the drainage system. 

"Following a thorough review of the residents’ and external reports as well as our own survey, work will get underway quickly on any necessary repairs to ensure the pipework and gullies are safe and clear to allow surface water to drain effectively. 

"We will also look at options for installing appropriate environmental monitoring equipment.

“We will then undertake a comprehensive assessment using specialist CCTV equipment of all the drainage and sewage systems owned and managed by the council on the estate, liaising with Thames Water, who are responsible for the main drains. 

“If this shows further practical action is needed, we will implement a longer-term programme of remedial work and ensure residents are fully informed every step of the way.”