Thames Water Flooded With Complaints

Water Company says Outdated Sewage System to Blame for Floods

Flooding in King Street on July 27



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FURIOUS Shepherd's Bush residents who have suffered continuous flooding over the past three years took Thames Water to task last Wednesday (October 17).

People from all over Hammersmith and Fulham attended the council's  Cleaner and Greener scrutiny committee to meet with representatives of Thames Water, and address a number of issues many say have been long  overdue.

But Thames Water told residents that London’s sewage system is not designed for the major flash storms the borough has seen three times in recent years: in 2004, 2005 and 2007. And there is little, if anything, that can be done to prevent the continued flooding of vulnerable homes.

Residents from Hammersmith Grove, Boscombe Road and Askew Road, some of whom have been flooded three of four times, were among those who came to the meeting to air their frustrations at the lack of progress in preventing future flooding.

Thames Water did reveal, for the first time despite years of questioning from the council and individual residents, that they are looking into a £80million long-term solution for the borough. But, they say, under Ofwat’s current financial restrictions, they need to prove that the work will prevent 500 homes from flooding in order to secure the funding. Even if this is achieved, the work will take several years to complete.

Tony Denton, local and regional government liaison for Thames Water, came along to the meeting with three colleagues to answer residents’ questions. He said: “We will be looking at sewer performance in Hammersmith and Fulham and at the capacity of Hammersmith pumping station. In Hammersmith and Fulham there is a dual system where the pipes carry both foul water from your homes and rainfall.

"Most of the flooding incidents have happened as a result of unusually heavy rainfall, when the water mains’ capacity is insufficient to cope with the sudden volume of water.

"Basements with connections which lie below the level of the mains are particularly at risk. We are seeing more extreme weather events. The flooding in July was caused by a storm we classify as a one-in-one-hundred-years event.”

Asked what could be done in the meantime, such as installing more emergency valves to prevent flooding in the worst hit areas, Thames Water said it was not a solution they favour because of the risk that when valves are used it increases the risk of self flooding or simply shifts the water towards neighbouring properties, increasing their flooding risk.

Some residents who already have valves reported that they had failed to protect their homes in July. Residents also expressed frustration that Thames Water are still surveying the extent of the problem.

"We do have weaknesses and we are willing to address them, but we'll need  the help of the borough," said Mr Denton, who mentioned that  the water company had administered a series of surveys after this summer's flooding to residents in order to gauge which areas were affected the most. However, he said very little response was received from the community.

In response, residents argued that they have repeatedly reported their complaints to Thames Water which appear to have been lost or overlooked. Thames Water said that they had only had back 61 of the 1054 questionnaires they sent out in Hammersmith and Fulham after the July storms, but residents complained they had simply not received them. One resident suggested that people may be reluctant to report flooding for fear of the impact on their future insurance.

Tensions during the meeting mounted when the issues of the survey and the continuous flooding in Shepherd's Bush, specifically on Askew and Boscombe Roads, were raised. Boscombe Road property owner, Denise Burke, said:. ""They acknowledge the Victorian drainage but I cannot  accept the years of flooding. It is bizarre that they have done no work on the pipes."

October 26, 2007