Category Archives: Thames Water

UPDATE – Asbestos in Cranleigh

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Thames Water advised Cranleigh Civic Society on the 20th October that the 3km of asbestos cement pipe that they are replacing in Cranleigh is only one fifth of the total length of the asbestos pipes in the village.

That means that Cranleigh will still have 12km of very old, decaying asbestos cement (AC) drinking water pipes operational in the drinking water network.

Cranleigh Civic Society has written several times to the Government’s Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) asking them to confirm that these old pipes will not be a risk to the health of Cranleigh residents, and we have not received reassurance from them.

The position of Cranleigh Civic Society remains unequivocal.  We think these very old AC pipes in the Cranleigh area should all be replaced BEFORE any new houses are connected to the network.  We think that the infrastructure should be sorted out by Waverley Borough Council first, particularly in this case where, we believe, it cannot be ruled out that there is a clear and present danger to public health.

 

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VICTORY for Cranleigh Civic Society!

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After a long fight by Cranleigh Civic Society, Thames Water have agreed to start replacing Cranleigh’s  asbestos cement drinking water pipes starting in 2018.

29.6% of our drinking water pipes are old and made from asbestos cement (compared to an average throughout SE England of just 2%).  The design life of these pipes is 50 to 70 years, and as some of these were installed in the early 1960’s, they are starting to decay and burst.

During the last nine months, a team from Thames Water has met with Cranleigh Civic Society several times to discuss the problem, and Thames Water has carried out tests on samples of burst pipes to determine the composition of the materials used.  They have found a mixture of white and blue asbestos.  On the 5th October, the team from Thames Water announced to Cranleigh Civic Society that they will start a programme of replacement in Spring 2018 (they will need the time between now and then for planning and to seek the licences that will be needed).

Cranleigh Civic Society is grateful to Thames Water who have been open and helpful in giving advice, and also to them for carrying out tests on the samples of burst pipe.  On the 9th October, Thames Water told us that they have identified over 3 km of pipes to replace, and we are awaiting confirmation from them as to how much of our old asbestos cement network that accounts for, and over what period of time the replacement programme will take place.

Thames Water has advised us that they have secured the funding for this project, which comes out of central pot and will not impact on our bills locally.

New housing being built in Cranleigh must comply with current Building Regulations that require a minimum 1 bar drinking water pressure provision.  This is because many new houses nowadays are provided with unvented hot water systems, which work on higher pressure than the old “indirect” systems based on a header tank in the attic space.  Over the past three months the number of burst water pipes has increased considerably with over 20 bursts occurring, some leaving residents without water for days at a time.  This has coincided with the building of new housing estates in the village.

Cranleigh Civic Society’s opinion is that if more new housing estates are connected onto the existing network before Thames Water has finished replacing the old asbestos cement pipes, the number of bursts will increase exponentially, and could raise the risk of more free asbestos fibres entering the drinking water network.

We think these old asbestos cement pipes in the Cranleigh area should be replaced BEFORE more new houses are connected to the network.

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Anne Milton opens Flood Gates

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On Monday the 24th of July, Anne Milton MP organised a meeting at the village hall that she described as a flood forum and it turned out to be much more than that. She brought together Waverley planners, Thames Water, the Environment Agency, the Drinking Water Inspectorate, Public Health England, Surrey County Council, the National Flood Forum, Cranleigh Parish Council and Cranleigh Civic Society to discuss openly several of the major concerns Cranleigh’s residents have raised with her. 65 members of the public came along and several parish and borough councillors also attended.

The plan was to address these concerns and direct them specifically to the authority responsible, so that the answers could be heard by all. We were very happy to hear sewerage problems, flooding and asbestos cement water pipes all discussed openly. It was always understood that the problems would not be resolved then and there but that efforts could be made to address them in the coming weeks and months.

To aid this, small sub committees were formed to work on specific areas and they will report back at the next meeting planned for the autumn. It was just the beginning of what will be a long term effort but a positive step and one that Cranleigh Civic Society welcomes. Members of the Society volunteered to join sub committees and share the information they have collected specific to each area so we will be close to the decision making process.

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Poo Brook still not resolved

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Adrian Clarke of Cranleigh Civic Society and Cranleigh Borough Councillor Liz Townsend were interviewed by Surrey Radio this week about the severe pollution problems in the brook that flows out of a culvert behind Marks and Spencer’s car park.  The brook problem is also featured on the front page of the current edition of the Surrey Advertiser (Friday 31 March 2017).

Residents have been complaining to Thames Water about raw sewage in the brook for 8 years, and in 2015 Cranleigh Civic Society took samples from the brook and got an independent laboratory to test them.  The report, which showed very high levels of e coli, was sent to the Environment Agency who investigated it and immediately put it onto their ‘UK Priority Hot Spot List’.

Cranleigh Civic Society also tried unsuccessfully to get Waverley Borough Council’s Environmental Health Department to help to get this serious pollution issue resolved.  We suspect that the reason why Waverley did not want to get involved is because it would jeopardise their hugely unpopular draft local plan.  In case you didn’t know this, Waverley wants to dump 44% of its new housing allocation into the Cranleigh area.  The same Waverley we all have to pay our very high Council Tax charges to.

Since the Environment Agency got involved, Thames Water has been carrying out tests, putting dyes in outflows and feeding cables with cameras from the culvert back towards the High Street, but with mixed results.  Thames Water claims to have discovered several ‘misconnections’ over the last year, but they have been very secretive about the number and locations of these.  Misconnections are where a house or a commercial property illegally connects its foul drainage to rainwater pipes either intentionally, or by mistake.

An engineer from Thames Water told us that, over the weekend of  1-2 April 2017, his team had identified eight commercial properties in the High Street that had misconnections; an amazing admission considering that Thames Water have had crews out investigating this problem now on several occasions over the last two years!

The cost of all these investigations so far is huge, the Thames Water engineer told us, and that, as it is unfair to burden their customers with this cost, Thames Water will be seeking to recover the cost from the commercial premises in the High Street.

We are hoping that Thames Water will now issue 21-day notices to the offending premises in the High Street to correct their problems.  If the businesses ignore the 21 day notice, they can face large penalties.

Why is all this a problem?  Children were seen last summer playing in the brook building a dam, and they often retrieve footballs from the brook when playing on the adjacent field, and people walk their dogs next to the brook (and dogs like to jump into water).  Also, the brook joins Cranleigh Waters, a stream that is already heavily polluted and which has caused fish stocks to die out in Bramley.

We will keep you informed of any updates on this story.

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Last Chance to Sign our Petition – deadline 30 April 2017

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We have previously highlighted our concerns about the asbestos cement pipes that supply drinking water to 29.6% of the homes in Cranleigh.

Read our previous article in full here.

We have recently found that over 30% of the drinking water pipes in Ewhurst are also asbestos cement. This is compared to about 4% in Godalming and Haslemere.

We are collecting signatures on a petition as we are so concerned that this issue is not being taken seriously, and ask for Ewhurst residents to sign as well.

The petition calls on Anne Milton to ask for an independent assessment of the risk to the health of local people from the asbestos cement pipes in almost 30% of the drinking water pipes in Cranleigh and surrounding villages.  Many of our members signed a paper version of the petition at the recent AGM and these were added to the on-line petition.

At the time of writing, the petition has 346 signatures, which is a great start – please add your details before 30th April.

Click here to sign the petition.
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KPI and A2 Dominion Granted Permission

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The nightmare has come true!  Yet another 265 houses on green fields were voted in last night on the casting vote of the Waverley Joint Planning Committee’s Chairman Cllr Peter Isherwood.

So now Cranleigh has a deluge of 1,236 new houses (and that doesn’t include the infilling going on all around Cranleigh in back gardens everywhere, especially up the Horsham Road) of these houses 418 are meant to be affordable – whatever that really means.

We just want to put the enormity of the scale of this development into context, the Swallowhurst Estate was for 58 houses only!

This is now the masterplan (so far) for Cranleigh, showing the Berkeley’s, Little Meadow and now KPI sites (A2 Dominion) together:

Masterplan for Cranleigh

The countryside to the left of the high street has now all but disappeared:

Cranleigh aerial photo

Cllr Mary Foryszewski was the only Cranleigh Councillor who could vote at last night’s meeting, as once again Cllrs Stewart and Jeanette Stennett declared a pecuniary interest in the KPI development, and Cllr Patricia Ellis was nowhere in sight.  Cllr Foryszewski alone battled valiantly for Cranleigh, but all was in vain.  Be very scared Cranleigh residents, Waverley has big plans for Cranleigh and they are not pretty.

It was also revealed last night that Waverley agreed a reduction in affordable housing on the KPI site in return for more money for the Elmbridge Road bridge (we can’t wait to see what actually happens there, as the estimated cost by Waverley is more akin to a fairy tale) and a sizeable contribution to a new Leisure Centre, proposed for the parish owned Snoxhall Fields, no doubt surrounded by a big car park.  Never mind, Cranleigh doesn’t need free recreation space, not when it can have even more houses who will pay council tax to Waverley!  However, it transpired that the Parish Council were not even given the courtesy of a consultation about this new Leisure Centre, the Cllrs we spoke to knew nothing about it, and are desperately trying to save this area for the community, by putting the land into a Trust, rather than see it consumed by Waverley.

Cllr Liz Townsend, who it seems has not been allowed to take up Cllr Brian Ellis’s vacant place on the planning committee, was allowed a speaking slot and conveyed how angry Cranleigh residents felt about the destruction of our village.  She also pointed out how seriously under represented Cranleigh is on the planning committee and that our voices were not being heard.

Officers brushed Cllr Townsend’s concerns about flooding on the site under the carpet, as well as the carefully worded advice from the Environment Agency to Waverley about something called the Sequential Test, which basically seems to mean that areas at less risk of flooding in Cranleigh should be built on first.  However, officers forged ahead regardless, avoiding carefully answering the question of whether the sequential test had actually been passed.  One shocked Cranleigh resident said “it’s as if the officers work for the developers”.

Cllr Townsend spoke from the heart, highlighting the unsustainable location of Cranleigh, and the harm that this deluge of development, in such as short space of time, would have on the character of Cranleigh and on its residents.  However, other hearts and minds appeared firmly closed, particularly Cllr Brian Adams (yes, he’s the one who said if we accepted the Crest Nicholson site for 149 houses Cranleigh would’ve taken its share of the borough’s housing, strangely the webcast of that meeting disappeared) who called his fellow councillors perverse if they refused this application, even though they had refused the identical application only last year.

Richard Bryant, on behalf of Cranleigh Civic Society, reminded Waverley that they have a legal duty to maintain water quality in our rivers and not to increase pollution levels in accordance with the Water Framework Directive.  Unfortunately, this was not even acknowledged, Waverley’s eye was firmly on the prize of 265 dwellings that won’t have to go anywhere near their precious green belt.  Houses that are far from major roads, far from a train station, far from jobs, and far from where most Waverley Councillors live.

Concerns about the sewage treatment works were cast aside with ease and pollution of Cranleigh Waters was not really worthy of a mention from officers, other than to imply that all was fine and dandy.  Apparently, the sewage from an additional 3,000 residents makes no difference.  And don’t forget that’s just Cranleigh’s new residents, we have other surrounding villages sending their muck here too to process.  Oh, and did we forget to say, no one gives a damn about the environment, it’s an inconvenient tick box in a developer-led planning system.

Cranleigh Cllr Brian Freeston admitted “we don’t feel part of Waverley at all, can you blame us?” he spoke about the unfair allocation of houses on a blighted Cranleigh. The fact that we are being forced to take 30% (so far), in the village alone, other areas have a maximum of 15%, and that doesn’t even take the Dunsfold settlement into account. Cllr Freeston voiced concerns about the viability of the parkland, and said Cranleigh was in an untenable position.  Serious and informed comments about the ageing asbestos cement drinking water pipes, of which Cranleigh unenviably has almost 30%, compared to 2% in the entire Thames Water area, received about as much attention as a Cranleigh Councillor at a Local Plan meeting.

As Cllr Townsend said “there is not a big enough material constraint, not even banned blue asbestos, that trumps more housing on Cranleigh’s green fields”.

So there you have it folks, Cranleigh is being officially destroyed with impunity by Waverley, next it will be a massive big shopping centre, just like Waverley have planned for Farnham, and one day you will wake up and find yourselves living in the biggest town in Waverley, and wonder how the hell you got there.

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Death of the Grampian Condition

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It won’t have gone unnoticed to residents that both Crest Nicholson on the Horsham Road and Cala Homes on Amlets Lane have started developing their sites.

Both these sites had Grampian style conditions.  This was meant to prevent the start of the development until off-site works were completed on the sewerage network, including the sewage treatment works on Elmbridge Road. However, we were recently advised by planning enforcement at Waverley that the Grampian Condition wording is too woolly to enforce and doesn’t specifically mention the words sewage “TREATMENT”,  so no work to the sewage works are apparently included – another nail in the coffin for Cranleigh.

To say that we felt let down by the lack of rigour exercised in the planners’ wording of the Grampian and the lack of ability by Waverley to enforce it, is an understatement!

There is no consideration being given to existing residents, who after all fund the borough council, in the scramble to achieve a housing number at all costs.  We don’t need to remind you, that you will have to bear the brunt of polluted rivers, congested roads, odour nuisance from the sewage works, an over burdened GP surgery, the list goes on.


As you might remember Cala Homes had applied for their Grampian condition to be removed, however, Waverley Borough Council, in a rare moment of what seemed common sense, refused their request. Surprisingly, this did not stop work on Cala’s show houses.

Amlets 8 Jan 2017

The bungalow on the Horsham Road, which was acquired by Crest Nicholson to provide an access road to the site, was demolished long before their Grampian Condition was even discharged (such as it was), and work was also immediately commenced on the green fields to build 149 houses.  Grampian, what Grampian?

It was also pointed out that Crest’s Grampian was a little more lax than that for Cala Homes, despite all the initial concerns Thames Water had about this site and the need for huge on-site sewage storage tanks. These worries seem to have been a mere flash in the pan!

Not long after the first Crest spade was in the ground, they were plotting to build 121 more houses in the pristine green fields adjacent to this site.

Crest describes Cranleigh on their website:

“Cranleigh is a pretty Surrey village where one can enjoy a relaxed pace of life yet benefit from daily conveniences aplenty on the doorstep, including a selection of shops, cafes and restaurants.”

Crest Nicholson demolish Bungalow Horsham Road

Sounds idyllic, and surprising how keen developers are to emphasise that we are a “village” in their marketing literature.


Despite the unsustainable location of Cranleigh, on a rural road network, with little public transport, a heavy reliance on the use of the private car, limited employment opportunities, water quality issues, a high percentage of asbestos cement drinking water pipes, an inadequate sewage treatment plant, and on green fields to boot,  none of this matters, as long as the houses are built.

The ONLY reason for these dwellings is because we have NO GREEN BELT protection, nothing else, and national planning policy will be twisted at the whim of the planners to suit their ultimate plan for this area, which is CRANLEIGH TOWN.

However, before you start thinking, how bad can that be, it will be bad!  We are the only community in Waverley without green belt protection AND any environmental designation.  Farnham at least has the protection of Thames Basin Special Protection Area.  So going forward, Cranleigh will be the dumping ground for any, and all, unmet housing in Waverley.  However, Waverley Borough Council seem to be the winners, they have a convenient area, in the corner of the borough, which will be a cash cow for council tax, and with only 5 councillors (Farnham has 18) representing this area, and two of those with a declared pecuniary interest in development, this really does seem like a marvellous arrangement.

There is the rather inconvenient truth of Cranleigh Waters, which is polluted and failing in terms of the Water Framework Directive, but that can be smoothed over, by applying pressure to an overworked and under resourced Environment Agency (EA) with the promise of funds for river restoration  and flood plain replacement projects.

There’s the problem of the rural roads and A281, but as Matthew Evans, Ex-Waverley Head Planner, said it really doesn’t matter if people are stuck in traffic.  Obviously air quality issues and quality of life, for residents in this part of the borough,  was not something that disturbed his sleep.

And then there’s the ageing asbestos cement drinking water pipes, which have an extremely inconvenient habit of bursting whenever water pressure increases, still, studies of health risks are inconclusive, so it appears Waverley don’t need to worry about that either.  Despite the fact that we can find no reports that include the age of pipes we have here, or our particularly agressive type of water.

It would be difficult to imagine what would ever be considered as a material constraint by Waverley planners against development in Cranleigh, perhaps the discovery of uranium in the high street?

And to add insult to injury, the EA are now actively looking for replacement flood plain for this area, as let’s face it, they don’t want to create too much flooding downstream for Bramley and Guildford, residents there might start to wonder why the hell all this building was allowed, or should we say encouraged, on the natural flood plain we DID have.

However, we still have something up our sleeve and that’s you!

Joined together, you are the most powerful force.  Stronger than Waverley and stronger than developers.

Working together in big enough numbers, people can, and will, make a difference.  We can fight for fairness, we can fight for our community, and we can fight for our environment.

JOIN US


“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead


 

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Thames Water Still Can’t Find Sewage Leak

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DON’T FORGET OUR AGM TONIGHT – 2 MARCH 2017, BAND ROOM, VILLAGE WAY FROM 7PM


After more than seven years Thames Water say they still can’t find the source of the sewage leak into the brook running along the field behind Marks and Spencer’s off the high street.

10 April brook sewage2

Despite claims that cameras have been in and out of the sewage pipes along the high street more times than a rat up a drain pipe, the story is exactly the same as it was when we first reported this problem on our website on 2 June 2015.

Thames Water has claimed, on different occasions over the past, at least, 7 years, yes that’s SEVEN YEARS, that the problem, has been sorted, or is about to be sorted.

Apparently several metres of the sewer has now been relined, but the latest report to Anne Milton MP on 23 February 2017 is:

“I write further to my email of 8 February regarding our investigation into the issues affecting both the Marks & Spencer’s and Sainsbury’s on the High Street, Cranleigh.

I am very sorry, but after the previously experienced difficulty in viewing the camera footage that was taken during our recent investigation, it has been agreed that our Technical Specialist and our contractors need to return to Cranleigh to carry out further detailed investigations to locate any misconnections that may be contributing to the reported pollution. This has been scheduled for 6 March.

This will involve further camera surveys and tracing of the pipes that connect into our network. This will enable our team to identify the source of the pollution and put in place plans for any misconnected pipes to be addressed by the relevant property or business owners.

As we do not have enforcement powers, once identified, any misconnected properties will be reported to the Local Authority so they can issue enforcement notices to make good the pipework. 

Once I have received a report following our planned visit on 6 March, I will be able to update you again on our plans moving forwards. This will be by no later than 13 March.

I hope you find this information helpful.

Yours sincerely 

Jon Denny

Senior Case Manager – Executive Office”

Actually Mr Denny we don’t find this helpful at all, yet again this matter has not been resolved and untreated sewage continues to flow into an open ditch running alongside a playing field where children have been seen playing football.

We certainly do not think this is good enough.

We would again appeal for the good people of Cranleigh to email your MP Anne Milton anne.milton.mp@paliament.uk and ask her what penalties can be placed on Thames Water, as at the moment there seems to be diddly-squat anyone can, or wants to do.

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Northdowns Sewage Update

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For residents of Northdowns the winter has brought some welcome relief from the pong of sewage emanating from a sewage pipe running behind their houses on the Downs Link.

However, yes you’ve guessed it, this problem has not yet been fixed!

Thames Water had finally managed to locate the manhole cover, as reported in our article dated 17 January 2017 and discovered that tree roots had caused a problem.  They said that they were going to return to reline the sewer.

However, as yet the work has not been completed, despite complaints from residents since 4 August 2016!


As one of our residents observed:

“I first reported the ‘pong’ to Thames water on 4th August, and the engineer that came on the 5th said that they needed to clear the brambles. (Others have repeated this since). So it was a full 5 months before they actually did it.

There had, in the mean time, been dozens of phone calls, many visits, with cameras and high pressure hoses (probably involving, hundreds of man hours) as they investigated the main line of the sewer.

When the task of clearing the brambles was eventually undertaken, they found that it was the branch sewer, that was clearly shown on their maps, that joined at the point were the ‘pong’ was, was the source. (Surprise-surprise).

There have been many unfulfilled promises of action and explanation of the reason for the long time involved.

How can Thames Water be expected to cope with a thousand new houses, when a simple job like this is beyond their capabilities.”


We have been regularly chasing these repairs and yet we still wait and wait for the Northdowns work to commence……

The amount of time and money being wasted on this ONE leaking sewer beggars belief.

The timeline for the work just keeps moving:

Thames Water email 21st Feb 2017:

We attended to the property in Northdowns on 19 February 2017, we cut away bushes and hedges which were preventing our contractors from carrying out the relining of the drain. Now this has been actioned and we can work safely, we are planning in a date for the repair. I’ll update you on this by 2 March 2017.

Thames Water email 14th Feb 2017:

As explained in my previous email dated 27 January 2017, I’d contacted Lanes to confirm the work details for the root cut that needed to take place. They have since responded with the information and having checked it today, I can see the root cut was completed on 9 January 2017.

However, during this work, the team identified a misplaced joint. For this reason, Lanes have raised follow on work to patch line the area of the sewer in question. This job is currently waiting to be scheduled and as it’s not high priority, may take longer than we’d normally expect. I will continue to monitor this and chase, to ensure the work goes ahead as quickly as possible and will provide you with every update I receive.

If you’d like to discuss the above, please call me on 0800 0093902. Our offices are open 8am-5pm, Monday to Friday. If I’m unavailable you can either leave a message, or one of my colleagues will be happy to help you.

I’ve sent an escalation to Lanes today, to request a scheduled date for the lining. I’ll check in again with them in a few weeks time, and will let you know of any news.

Thames Water email 13th Feb 2017:

The work to repair the drains in Northdowns is still being planned in. The CCTV survey we carried out had to be reviewed by our Technical Specialists before the follow on work could be raised, to ensure the team carrying out the repair had the correct instructions. The work has been raised and I’ve escalated this job to confirm a planned date for the work. I’ll update you on this no later than 21 February 2017.

Thames Water email 3rd Feb 2017:

We are still planning in the work to repair the drain in Northdowns which was causing the bad smell. I’ve escalated this again today to get a planned date. I’ll contact you by 14 February 2017 with an update.

Thames Water email 27th Jan 2017:

We attended Northdowns yesterday, 26 January 2017, and marked up where we need to dig down to carry out the repair. We are planning in the date to do this. I’ll contact you by 3 February 2017, with an update.

Thames Water email 13th Jan 2017:

We attended and cut the brambles on 5 January 2017, and uncovered 3 manhole covers. We lifted the covers and camera surveyed the drains, we found there was a mass of roots in the line causing a blockage, stopping wastewater from flowing freely down the drains. This is what was causing the bad smell.

We re-attended on 9 January 2017 and removed all the roots from the line. Once we had done this we camera surveyed the line again and have identified a hole in this section of the drain. We are planning to reline the sewer to repair the defect. We’re in contact with the customer who needs to grant us access and they’re aware of this work.

I’ll contact you with an update by 23 January 2017. If you need to speak to me in the meantime, please telephone me on 0800 0093902. Our offices are open between the hours of 8am and 5pm, Monday to Friday. If I am unavailable when you call then you can either leave a message for me or one of my colleagues will be pleased to assist.

Thames Water email 27th Jan 2017:

We attended and cut the brambles on 5 January 2017, and uncovered 3 manhole covers. We lifted the covers and camera surveyed the drains, we found there was a mass of roots in the line causing a blockage, stopping wastewater from flowing freely down the drains. This is what was causing the bad smell.

We re-attended on 9 January 2017 and removed all the roots from the line. Once we had done this we camera surveyed the line again and have identified a hole in this section of the drain. We are planning to reline the sewer to repair the defect. We’re in contact with the customer who needs to grant us access and they’re aware of this work.

Thames Water Email 23rd Dec 2016:

There are manhole covers, covered in brambles, we’ve been unable to access. We need to cut the brambles away in order to lift the manhole covers to see whether there is an operational issue in this section of the drains.  I’ve escalated this job to our contractors, Lanes for Drains and asked them to plan this job in as soon as possible, they’ve assured me this will be done after the Christmas period. I’ve been assured this will be planned in the first week of January. As we’re yet to investigate this stretch of drain, I’m unable to confirm what is causing the smell at present.

I’ll let you know once we have a date to cut back the brambles to investigate this drain. If you’d like to speak to me in the meantime, please telephone me on 0800 0093902. Our offices are open between the hours of 8am and 5pm, Monday to Friday. If I am unavailable when you call then you can either leave a message for me or one of my colleagues will be pleased to assist.

Thames Water email 28 Nov 2016:

We hadn’t completed our investigations as we needed to check the manholes covered in brambles, which I stated in my last email. We attended on 19 November 2016, to cut the brambles back so we could check the drain this manhole gives us access to. The manhole we revealed didn’t have any laterals leading off of it. We need to find a manhole under these brambles, so we can gain access to the drain and do a camera survey to see if there’s a defect or blockage causing this smell. We are currently planning in the next visit and I’ll update you when this is planned in.

Thames Water email 14 Nov 2016:

A bad smell was reported on 4 August 2016, we found the smell was coming from a bush area on the old railway line. We attended on 5 August 2016, and our subcontractors Lanes were unable to find any blockages in the drains. We couldn’t lift one manhole cover to check as it was overgrown with brambles. 

A Network Engineer attended on 16 August 2016, when he arrived there was no smell present. A resident explained there was a smell in the area at times. Another resident reported the smell and we attended on 27 August 2016, there was no smell present at this time either, however they should’ve been made aware we had an outstanding line clean on the system.

We attended on 23 August 2016, to carry out a camera survey. We identified there was fat and grease in the line, we removed what we could on 31 August 2016, but had to raise further work so we could get bigger equipment to remove the remaining blockage. We attended on 4 October 2016, to remove the remaining fat and grease from the line but were unable to complete the work as the equipment wasn’t working. 

We re-attended on 11 October 2016, to carry out a camera survey to confirm that all our assets were clear. We surveyed from manhole 0202 to 0205, from manhole 9301 downstream to 9403, from manhole 9403 downstream to 9402 and found no defects. We jetted the line from manhole 9402 upstream to 0202 to clear fat and scale from the line.

A Network Engineer has met with a resident today and confirmed where the manhole is under the bramble, he’ll be raising further work for us to cut back the brambles so we can lift the manhole cover and check for defects. I’m sorry this hadn’t been raised from the initial visit, when we identified there was a manhole that we couldn’t check. I’m going to send you an update to let you know when we’ll return once the job has been raised and planned in.

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Northdowns Sewage Update

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Thames Water have now carried out further investigations into the sewage odour nuisance to the back of Northdowns.  They have confirmed that:

“We attended and cut the brambles on 5 January 2017, and uncovered 3 manhole covers. We lifted the covers and camera surveyed the drains, we found there was a mass of roots in the line causing a blockage, stopping wastewater from flowing freely down the drains. This is what was causing the bad smell.

We re-attended on 9 January 2017 and removed all the roots from the line. Once we had done this we camera surveyed the line again and have identified a hole in this section of the drain. We are planning to reline the sewer to repair the defect. We’re in contact with the customer who needs to grant us access and they’re aware of this work.”

We will be continuing to chase Thames Water to ensure that the relining work is carried out.


A resident of Northdowns has confirmed to us that:

I first reported the ‘pong’ to Thames water on 4th August, and the engineer that came on the 5th said that they needed to clear the brambles. (Others have repeated this since). So it was a full 5 months before they actually did it.

There had, in the mean time, been dozens of phone calls, many visits, with cameras and high pressure hoses (probably involving, hundreds of man hours) as they investigated the main line of the sewer.

When the task of clearing the brambles was eventually undertaken, they found that it was the branch sewer, that was clearly shown on their maps, that joined at the point were the ‘pong’ was, was the source. (Surprise-surprise).

There have been many unfulfilled promises of action and explanation of the reason for the long time involved.

How can Thames Water be expected to cope with a thousand new houses, when a simple job like this is beyond their capabilities.

Email reproduced with kind permission.

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