On Monday I was alerted to a stream of sewage emanating from a manhole cover near the Midday Sun pub in Chipstead. It was flowing down Chipstead Valley Road towards Chipstead Valley Primary School.
Of course, this was deeply unpleasant for all concerned coupled with a nasty odour which constituents were smelling in their homes.
Having contacted Thames Water, I am pleased that they attended the area on Monday evening where they found a manhole that appeared to have overflowed. The team identified a blockage in a large length of sewer pipework extending from this location and conducted initial cleaning to clear the pipe.
Whilst the line is now free-flowing, due to the size and extent of the blockage, the team has raised a request for further cleaning and a survey of the pipework. To allow this to be conducted safely along this busy stretch of road, they will require traffic management to be set up in agreement with the Local Authority. Please be assured the report of debris in the road has also been noted by Thames Water and will be investigated further.
Of priority is the significant clear-up operation which will commence shortly. Thames Water will confirm exact timescales on the team’s attendance imminently. I will of course update this blog as soon as the information is available.
Please note this serious matter is also being addressed by my colleague, Chris Philp MP as the incident falls within both our constituencies.
Update Thursday 4 February 2021 at 17.00
The operational lead at Thames Water for this area has confirmed that the majority of this clean-up work should now be complete. A member of their specialist team will visit the area in the coming days to validate this work and identify any other outstanding actions.
I do believe that this update has been conveyed to residents via a WhatsApp group.
To the wider points on historic flooding and odour issues, Thames Water will begin work on a formal update which will be shared within 10 working days.
Update Thursday 4 February 2021 at 22.00
There has been a further report of the same manhole cover leaking and foul odour near the Midday Sun pub. Mr Blunt has reported this update to Thames Water. Please be assured the inadequate clean up around this area has also been communicated.
Formal reply from Thames Water dated: 24 February 2021
Sewer flooding, Chipstead Valley Road, CR5 3BN
Dear Crispin Blunt MP
Thank you for the email of 3 February in relation to the concerns raised by two of your constituents and the serious matter of wastewater flooding near their homes. I understand one of your constituents is now kindly acting on behalf of her neighbours and I appreciate you forwarding a copy of the recent correspondence she sent to you. As Local Government Lead for your area.
Firstly, I would like to say how sorry I am for the worrying and difficult situation residents and pedestrians faced during this time, as well as passing motorists. I also wholly recognise the impact of this incident on the environment and I would like to assure you that we take these matters very seriously. As soon as any operational issues are reported to us, we’ll arrange for a full investigation to take place and raise any further work as required.
I welcome the opportunity to provide you with a summary of our investigations and trust that you find the information set out below helpful.
What we found:
On Saturday 30 January we received a report of wastewater flooding across the road and underneath the bridge. We attended during the afternoon of 30 January and found the manhole chamber on the grass verge surcharging, caused by a combination of the recent wet weather and a high-water table, built up over recent months. These levels inundated our local sewer network, as water both from above ground and below ground escaped into our system, known as hydraulic flooding.
The whole of our region has been impacted by the significant rainfall we’ve experienced since the beginning of October. Our foul water sewers are designed to take predominantly foul waste from homes and businesses, with some allowance for both surface water connections and groundwater infiltration. However, they’re not designed to accommodate all additional flows under exceptionally wet conditions. This can result in our network becoming overwhelmed which, in exceptional circumstances, leads to this type of flooding.
Unfortunately, until the rain subsided, we were unable to get our camera through the water to survey the sewer to check for any underlying issues due to the high levels in the sewer. I’m aware that there was wastewater flooding on the footpath and the road in this time and for this I’m truly sorry.. Our tankers are initially deployed as a priority to homes which are internally flooding. However, Health and Safety is of the utmost importance to us and we continued our investigations as swiftly as possible once the rain began to ease off.
On 1 February, we did manage to pump down the sewer and carried out a camera survey of some sections. It’s important to note that these investigations did not detect any issues or defects in the sewer itself. After this type of activity, residents may experience a sewage odour in the vicinity for approximately 24 to 48 hours until the pipes settle. I’m also sorry to hear of the historic odour issues underneath the bridge. I’ve checked our records over the last five years and I’m unable to see any details specifically relating to this however I’d like to assure you we’ll arrange for one of our engineers to attend and carry out a full investigation. We’ll also report the issue of the blocked road side gullies (RSG) along this stretch of road to the local council via their website as they fall under their responsibility.
Following this incident, we arranged for our specialised cleaning company, Rainbow, to attend and carry out a thorough clean up and disinfection of all the affected areas on the road and footpath.
From reviewing this case it’s clear that we’ve not provided the level of service we always aim for, and it’s incredibly disappointing to learn of the behaviour shown by some of our team out on site. This is inexcusable behaviour that we in no way tolerate, and I would like to assure you that this has been fed back to the relevant teams concerned and the matter will be dealt with appropriately.
Communication is also key in keeping our customers proactively updated, and it’s clear we’ve let them down in this area. Please be assured we’ll do all we can to ensure this does not happen again. It’s worth noting that during periods of heavy rainfall our phone lines become extremely busy and it can take longer to get through. In addition, when we experience these heavy storms our response times may need to be extended. That said, we should always be clear on our service level agreement timescales, so once again I’m sorry for the lack of clarity on our part. I fully recognise the frustration this will have caused in an already difficult situation.
For added peace of mind, we are currently in the process of arranging for a full camera survey to check the condition of our sewer and ensure there are no underlying issues. I’ve asked our Executive Office, to keep you fully updated as these investigations progress by 17 March to let you know our findings.
Local Government Lead