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: 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
Update from Thames Water: Friday 19th March 2021
Chipstead Valley Road, CR5 3BN
Dear Mr Crispin Blunt MP
Further to our email of 24 February, I welcome this opportunity to update you in relation to wastewater flooding at the above location.
Please be assured, our Field Operations Specialist is currently in the process of carrying out a careful review of our network in the area following the recent incidents of wastewater flooding. We have raised further work to undertake a camera survey of our main sewer in the vicinity. This will be to check for any underlying issues which may have contributed to these incidents.
I’m sorry it’s taking longer than usual to plan this in. Following the wet weather we’ve had recently, we’ve had to prioritise our resources to our customers whose homes have been internally flooded, and this has caused delays in progressing matters. As soon as I receive confirmation of a date, I’ll of course let you know and I’ll continue to do all I can to help resolve this matter as swiftly as possible.
I’ll continue to monitor the situation closely. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for your continued patience whilst our investigative work is ongoing. I’ll contact you again, on, or before, 16 April with a further update.
Senior Case Manager – Executive Office
Update from Thames Water: Wednesday 14 April 2021
Chipstead Valley Road, CR5
Dear Mr Crispin Blunt MP,
Thank you for your email of 26 March in relation to the recent sewer flooding events at the above location. I appreciate you kindly letting me know that you are sharing the information we’re providing.
As you know, Chipstead Valley Road itself covers quite some a distance. It may also be helpful to explain due to the expanse of the road, it’s covered by two operational networks teams within our business being Central South and Eastern South.
I’m aware over recent months there have unfortunately been several incidents of sewer flooding and blockages occurring in different sections of the road, particularly after heavy rainfall. As you’re aware when we’ve attended, we’ve carried out a full investigation. We recognise the importance of working together to keep all parties fully updated, including our next steps throughout.
I’d like to take this opportunity to summarise our next steps, to assist with your constituents WhatsApp update to residents.
In and around the area of 200 - 282 Chipstead Valley Road, a meeting was held in March by senior members of our wastewater team. Following this constructive meeting, further work has been raised to clean the storm tanks, which will improve the flow levels in the sewer in this vicinity. Going forward, I’ll keep you fully updated on the progress of this activity.
In addition, and as advised in my last correspondence I’d like to reassure you we’ll be conducting a very detailed and extensive camera survey of the general area of Chipstead Valley Road, extending it out towards Outward Lane. This is to gain a better understanding as to whether there are any underlying issues in our network that may require further work. Our engineers have began preliminary checks to undertake this activity safely and I can confirm we plan to commence our survey work out of hours on 7 May.
As we hold a separate case for MP Philp’s office, I will of course continue to write to their office. To help and support both constituencies with regular updates and any significant developments along the way I will combine them as one and send them to you both offices as I have done today. I trust this meets with your approval. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you and your constituents for your continued patience whilst our work is ongoing.
As I’ve written to you today, I’ll contact you again on, or before 12 May to provide a further update.
Senior Case Manager – Executive Office
Update from Thames Water: Monday 17 May 2021
Chipstead Valley Road, CR5
Dear Mr Crispin Blunt MP
I’m writing to introduce myself as the new point of contact for this case and to provide you with an update. Please accept my sincere apologies for the later update and be assured, I aim to ensure we progress matters, as swiftly as possible. As requested I’ve also copied in Chris Philps MP, so he is aware of the below update.
As you may know, we plan on undertaking a clean and camera survey of 481 metres of our foul water sewer (FWS). In preparation for this work, we carried out assessment on 4 May 2021, to understand whether any special condition may be needed to ensure our work can be carried out safely. As part of this, we know some traffic management will be needed, which will include a zebra crossing and bus stop suspension, as well as two way lights. This will need to be approved by the local authority prior to commencing our work and a date will need to be agreed.
In addition, we’ve also found a penstock valve, situated in our trunk sewer in Outwood Lane requires replacement. A meeting between our Field Operations Specialist and contractors will need to take place in advance to discuss the details of this work. Please note, this work will need to be completed, prior to undertaking the above clean and camera survey. I’ll of course closely monitor the situation and continue to provide you with updates on our progress.
CEO Office Manager
Update from Thames Water: Thursday 3 June 2021
Chipstead Valley Road, CR5
Dear Mr Crispin Blunt MP
I’m writing to provide you with a brief update on the above case and to thank you for your email dated 19 May 2021, in response to my previous correspondence.
As previously advised, a meeting needs to be set up between our Field Operations Specialist and our contractors to discuss the replacement of the penstock valve, prior to completing our sewer clean. Regrettably, this meeting hasn’t yet taken place, however, please be assured, I’ve escalated this today to ensure we progress with this at the earliest opportunity.
I am sorry, I’ve not been able to demonstrate much progress has been made currently, but I’ll closely monitor the situation and continue to keep you updated. I’ll contact you again, no later than 1 July 2021.
CEO Office - Manager
Update Monday 7th June 2021
Crispin Blunt has been made aware of the most recent sewage flooding in Chipstead Valley Road on Saturday 5th June. Whilst he is pleased to learn an immediate clean up took place, he is pressing Thames Water for an urgent update on their proposed remedial works to eradicate this ongoing problem.
Meeting with Thames Water: Friday 16th June - "Unforgivable" - Thames Water apologise for Coulsdon sewage leak
On Friday, representatives met with Thames Water to discuss the recent sewage leak which erupted from drains along Chipstead Valley Road on Saturday 5th June, causing a significant impact to residents.
Those present included:
- Cllr Tim Archer – Chipstead, Kingswood and Woodmansterne, Reigate and Banstead Borough Council
- Cty Cllr Luke Bennett – Banstead, Woodmansterne and Chipstead, Surrey County Council
- Teresa Craig - office manager and senior caseworker, office of Crispin Blunt MP for Reigate
- Cllrs Mario Creatura, Luke Clancy and Ian Parker – Coulsdon Town, Croydon Council
- Neil Garratt - London Assembly Member for Croydon and Sutton
- Chris Philp - MP for Croydon South
- Representatives from Thames Water.
Thames Water commenced the meeting with an apology to all residents, stating that the situation was “unforgivable”. They are devastated that this happened and they sought to reassure all representatives that they will do everything possible to make it right for all concerned.
Understanding the Sewer Layout on Chipstead Valley Road
One of the Thames Water engineers described the sewage system under Chipstead Valley Road as one of the most complex he’d seen – “the Spaghetti Junction of sewers”. Smaller ‘feeder sewers’ take domestic waste from toilets, sinks etc on sideroads and direct them into a larger ‘trunk sewer’ under Chipstead Valley Road. This trunk sewer takes the waste water to the nearby water treatment plant for processing.
What have Thames Water found?
A status update was given on the investigation into the cause of the most recent sewage leak. This is the fourth leak the area has experienced in the last year. The first three were from blockages in the smaller feeder sewers, which resulted in mainly liquid being expelled. Thames Water were still in the process of investigating the cause of these leaks when the June leak occurred.
Thames Water confirmed that the June event was significantly more severe as it included excrement being among the liquid released by the sewer system. Their preliminary investigations indicate an issue in the larger trunk sewer and not the feeder sewers, but as yet they are not in a position to conclusively state the cause of the leak.
It is possible that an unexpectedly large volume of liquid entered the system in one go, possibly from a non-domestic source, and the sewer capacity was exceeded which lead to the leak. Now the liquid has had a time to flow through the pipes, the evidence just isn’t there to determine if this was the cause.
Thames Water have not yet found any evidence that any construction debris was the cause (concrete etc from local developments), but they are not ruling anything out. They are therefore expanding the area of their investigation to take into account the majority of the sewer network in Coulsdon.
Thames Water are in the process of determining a series of surveys to examine the whole local system. This will cause some disruption to the community, and could take several months to complete. Elected representatives stressed the need for haste, concerned that an indefinite timeline could see this dragging out longer than is absolutely necessary, thereby increasing the risk of another leak occurring.
Communicating with residents
It was agreed that local residents deserve regular communication. Thames Water pledged to ensure that at the appropriate junctures they will write to affected roads updating them as their investigations progress.
Councillors and MPs will also be kept informed. I will therefore be keeping my website updated with any new information.
It was suggested that Thames Water host a public meeting via Zoom so that residents can fully understand what is happening. Once Thames Water have a more definitive conclusion to their investigation works they will look to make the necessary arrangements. I will share the date once this has been communicated.
A number of properties were severely impacted by the June sewage leak. It is understood the vast majority of residents affected have already contacted Thames Water and are in the process of being supported with any claims they may have. If you have not yet contacted Thames Water about a potential claim, and feel you’re entitled to, then please get in touch with my office and I will direct your case to the relevant Thames Water team.
Any areas missed?
Thames Water have been back to jet clean the area several times over the last fortnight, but it is still possible that they may have missed certain elements of the very long Chipstead Valley Road. If you spot any areas that need another deep clean then please do make contact with Thames Water.
Local councillors and MPs will be invited to another meeting in a few weeks’ time for an update on the situation. Together with Thames Water, please be assured two constituencies are working together to ensure this important matter is resolved for all constituents.
Update Tuesday 6 July 2021 - Surrey County Council
County Councillor Luke Bennett confirmed that in parallel to ongoing investigations (and subsequent action to be taken by Thames Water in respect of the sewage system), during the forthcoming school summer holiday period, Surrey County Council Highways have secured funding for a ‘deep clean’ of the 7 soakaways (to improve functionality/capacity) and to install more gullies and channels on the footway (to improve the drainage). In the case of the latter, contractors have applied some markings which are indicative of where they will be working in due course.
Update from Thames Water: Friday 13th August 2021
Thank you for your patience while we completed cleaning and camera surveys of the sewer network in the vicinity of Chipstead Valley Road. I wanted to update you all on our progress and our plans for next steps as I am aware we agreed to arrange an update meeting.
Surveying began on Sunday 25 July, but progress was slow due to the recent rainfall and the build up of silt that this rainfall had resulted in. Investigations therefore had to be extended and all of the necessary survey work was completed by Monday 2 August.
Our focus has now turned to understanding how the system in the area operates. The first stage of this includes a specialist technician reviewing the camera survey footage for the area. The results of the survey will be considered alongside the location and characteristics of previous flooding incidents, to compile an accurate plan of the local system. This information will then enable us to identify any next steps that can be taken in the area.
I also wanted to update you on a defect in a small section of pipework, that was identified as we began to conduct our surveys. The defect is unrelated to the flooding that has occurred and we are in the process of planning our next steps to complete a repair.
My colleague has spoken with his team this week and they estimate it will take around 3 weeks to review the extensive footage and information that has been gathered. We hoped that this information would be available sooner, but this was based on when we were able to access pipework via manhole chambers in this busy section of road. We appreciate everyone’s support in arranging this as quickly and safely as possible but could not predict the heavy rainfall events that also occurred during July.
The most productive follow up meeting would be one that takes place once we have completed our investigations and reviewed our findings, so I propose that we look to consider meeting again sometime during the week commencing 6 September and will be in touch shortly to make arrangements.
Alice Keeping, Local Government Lead – South East London
Update Thursday 15 September 2021 - County Councillor, Luke Bennett
I write to provide a progress update on the flooding problems in and around Chipstead Valley Road, following the Surrey County Council Cabinet Member Decisions session yesterday; Sept 14. In attendance (to respond to the resident petition and my additional questions) were the Cabinet Member for the Environment: Cllr Marissa Heath and the Flood Risk Management Strategy and Partnerships Team Leader.
The Council’s official responses and a link to the webcast of the ‘hearing’ can be seen / heard here: Surrey County Council - Agenda for Cabinet Member for Environment Decisions on Tuesday, 14 September 2021, 4.00 pm (surreycc.gov.uk)
- This problem is now firmly ‘on radar’ with Surrey County Council with the highest scoring for apportioning capital funding.
- Beyond the initial work which recently took place on the pavements and drains, further maintenance / cleansing / investigations of the drainage and soakaways will be completed during the October school half term – to minimise local inconvenience and traffic issues.
- In October / November; the Council Highways, Flood Resilience Team and Reigate & Banstead flood engineers will collectively review the results of the maintenance / cleansing and advise the local Councillor (Cllr Luke Bennett) via monthly updates of further action and progress.
- Further funding will be committed to broader design, engineering and improvements in the next financial year (from April 2022).
- Initial investigations have affirmed that the issues experienced by residents in Chipstead Valley are linked to a range of issues above and beyond the local highway drains / soakaways (within a much broader catchment area or circa 6km). Definitive solutions / recommendations will include water management in neighbouring areas (to reduce the volume of water on the highway locally), individual property resilience measures, as well as further local highways drainage / soakaway improvements.
- Surrey County Council are currently recruiting to expand the local Flood Resilience team.
I am pleased that progress and action is now firmly secured, albeit the solutions required are clearly far more complex, wide-ranging and time consuming than a comparatively simple maintenance programme. Nevertheless, this issue (brought to my attention in week 1 of being elected as the local County Councillor), is now tangibly moving in the right direction and will remain my local priority until it is satisfactorily concluded.
Meeting with Thames Water: Thursday 30th September 2021
As Mr Blunt's senior caseworker and office manager, I was pleased to join in a meeting on his behalf with Thames Water representatives as a follow up to earlier contacts regarding the devastating impact of sewage leaks affecting Chipstead Valley Road and surrounding roads. We were joined by representatives from Croydon Council, Reigate and Banstead Council, Surrey County Council, the office of Chris Philp MP and Neil Garratt - GLA member for Croydon and Sutton.
The investigatory works carried out by Thames Water have now concluded and a number of defects dealt with. A particular sewage holding tank (located near the Midday Sun allotments behind Chipstead Valley Road) benefitted from a ‘five man entry’ to clean and service the tank, removing any blockages. Thames Water believe that this tank may have released a blockage of its own accord, and that was what caused the sewage leak, though this may not be the definitive cause. Three other underground tanks in the area have also been serviced. They will be serviced annually to avoid any future issue.
3km of sewers have been cleaned and surveyed (from the Lion Green Road Post Office to the Midday Sun pub) but no major defects were found. 385 metres of lining have been put in place to rectify hairline fractures that were identified. New sewage depth monitors and alarms have been installed to provide an emergency alert should sewage levels rise again.
Councillors asked that a newsletter be circulated quickly to local residents to inform residents of the steps that have been taken to ensure the dreadful problems aren’t repeated. It is worth saying that this specific type of sewage leak is rare and shouldn't happen again, but that doesn't mean the sewers on Chipstead Valley Road won't flood again. This is a longer-term issue in the region. We are told Thames Water is working on a solution.
We were somewhat reassured by what we heard but please be assured that councillors will continue to monitor the situation over the coming weeks and months.