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Floods bring back sewage
Published 24/02/14

RESIDENTS of Mill End are angry at having to live with raw sewage outside their homes due to the floods.

The problem has been caused by the Hambleden pumping station breaking down after being inundated with water — for the second winter running.

It is just the latest in a series of failures which residents say Thames Water has failed to deal with properly.

A similar problem has occurred at the Thames Water treatment work near Swiss Farm, which is threatening to affect Temple Island Meadows, a site of special scientific interest.

Floodwater outside flats at the Malthouse in Mill End has been contaminated by sewage since the pumping station failed last month. The effluent has also been flowing into the River Thames.

When flooding happened last year, there were tankers on site clearing the waste for months.

Keith Heron, who lives in one of the flats, said: “We’re all pretty disgusted with Thames Water. We have had raw sewage now for about three-and-a-half weeks.

“It’s just unpleasant and they’re basically saying they are not going to do anything.Thames Water say they are going to upgrade the pumping station but they never do.”

Mr Heron said that since he and his wife Debby Flavell moved to Mill End in 1998 the pumping station had failed or worked insufficiently five times, resulting in sewage leaks. After last year’s problems, the company promised to solve the problem.

Ms Flavell said: “While it hasn’t come into the Malthouse, thank goodness, it has gone into the river and we’re having to drive through it. Our car is standing in a bit of contaminated water which we have to walk through. It’s very smelly and we think it’s a health hazard.

“It’s something that shouldn’t really be happening and could easily be rectified. I think all that’s needed is one tanker to clear the drain.”

She claimed that if a wall was built around the pumping station and a sump installed this would solve the problem.

“The whole thing happened last year and it could have been rectified but nothing’s been done and we’re back in the same situation,” said Ms Flavell.

“Given how much money we pay Thames Water, we’re not getting the service we should be.”

Alison Hussey had to move out of Why Cottage in Hambleden, which is near the pumping station, last year because the problem became so bad.

She said: “It was five months of hell and it got to the point where lorries were driving past every 40 minutes. The house was shaking, the smell was disgusting, there was raw sewage everywhere and I just couldn’t bear it anymore to be honest.”

Three new pumps were installed at the pumping station but Mrs Hussey claims the company should have built a small brick wall around it and installed a sump.

She said: “I’m very sad and I’m very angry about it. I’m sad because I’ve got a lot of friends down there and it makes me feel physically sick when I go past.

“I’m incredibly angry because there is raw sewage flowing into the Thames. From an environmental and ecological point of view, it’s atrocious.

“It is disgraceful because they knew they could have done something about it. Basically their infrastructure is just not equipped to deal with the 21st century.”

Alex Dick, manager of the Culden Faw Estate, told how sewage had also been discharged from the treatment works.

“We have got condoms, sanitary towels, everything else floating through here and then on to Hurley, Medmenham and Marlow,” he said.

“This has been going on for some time and the issue is not the fact that the Thames is flooded, it’s the fact that the Thames Water electrical pumps are not protected from water.

“Fortunately, our property at Mill End doesn’t have a tenant in it but we have got raw sewage running through the estate, past our livestock, horses and sheep, and running into Temple Island Meadows.”

The meadows are home to the Loddon lily and the estate had been working with Natural England to improve the area.

Mr Dick said: “As an estate, we feel for the residents of Mill End who are actually living with this.”

On Wednesday, an environment officer with the Environment Agency visited the Culden Faw Estate to take samples and Wycombe district councillor Roger Metcalfe, who represents the Hambleden Valley ward, visited the Malthouse.

Cllr Metcalfe said: “The point is the health concern here and we don’t want the effluent to come up to surface level every time it floods. It’s just not acceptable, that’s the challenge for Thames Water to solve for us.”

A Thames Water spokesman said: “Our pumping station in Hambleden is now working as it should but is inundated with the sheer volume of water in the system caused by river flooding and groundwater.

“Previously the station was itself infiltrated by floodwater from the Thames which caused a problem with the electrics that led to the pumps failing. This has been fixed and we’ve taken measures to ensure the electrics are better protected.

“We’re doing our best to help affected customers but we have to prioritise those most in need of our support and, at this point, this means vulnerable customers and those suffering from sewer flooding inside their homes. As soon as water levels subside, we’ll be able to start assessing affected areas.”

The Environment Agency said it was monitoring the situation.

Published 24/02/14

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