Yesterday local elected representatives met with Thames Water to discuss the recent sewage leak in Coulsdon, impacting local people there and in neighbouring Chipstead.
The meeting was initiated by Coulsdon Town councillors after sewage erupted from drains along Chipstead Valley Road on Saturday 5th June, flooding gardens, spraying houses and coating local cars.
Those present included:
- Cllrs Mario Creatura, Luke Clancy and Ian Parker – Coulsdon Town, Croydon Council
- Cllr Tim Archer – Chipstead, Kingswood and Woodmansterne, Reigate and Banstead Borough Council
- Chris Philp - MP for Croydon South
- Neil Garratt - London Assembly Member for Croydon and Suton
- Cllr Luke Bennett – Banstead, Woodmansterne and Chipstead, Surrey County Council
- Representatives from Croydon Council, Thames Water and Crispin Blunt MP.
To their great credit, Thames Water started the meeting with an apology to the community, stating that the situation was “unforgivable”. They are devastated that this happened to their customers, and they sought to reassure us throughout the meeting that they were doing everything possible to make it right.
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 side roads 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?
At the meeting we were given a status update on the investigation into the cause of the most recent June 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 accepted that they could have been faster with the investigations into the previous three leaks, but as they were at a relatively lower level of impact the urgency just wasn’t there and so the signs weren’t picked up that could have avoided the June leak.
Thames Water tell us that the June leak was a significantly more severe event, which as we all know 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.
We need to get to the bottom of the cause of the repeat sewage leaks on Chipstead Valley Road. To that end, 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.
We have received assurances from Croydon Council that they will do everything they can to support and facilitate Thames Water as they go about their work.
Possible long-term solutions
Without knowing the root cause it’s difficult to come up with concrete solutions – the maintenance schedule of the sewer system will be increased but a larger engineering fix is not likely to be worth the impact to the community.
In reality: digging up the hugely busy road, diverting traffic for weeks or months, excavating the current sewer and making it larger would be hugely expensive, hugely disruptive, and likely wouldn’t fix the cause of the repeat leaks.
There are likely pinch points throughout the local sewage network that can be alleviated, or waste overflow storage facilities that could be enlarged to prevent it happening again. These and other potential solutions can be explored once the investigation is complete.
Communicating with residents
Local residents need to be told regularly what is going on in the community. Thames Water pledged to ensure that at the appropriate junctures they will write to affected roads updating them as the investigation progresses.
Councillors and MPs will also be informed, and we’ll post the information on our websites and share on social media so the message gets out as widely and as quickly as possible.
It was requested that Thames Water holds a public meeting via Zoom so that residents can understand what is going on, and what the plan is to resolve this going forward. It is likely that this will take place when Thames Water have a more definitive conclusion to their investigation works. As ever, we’ll keep you posted and share the details when a date is set.
A number of properties were severely impacted by the June sewage leak – with damage being inflicted on gardens, vehicles and the houses themselves.
We are told 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.
We have been assured that the process is swift. If this is not your experience then please do get in touch with us and we can escalate your concerns: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have not yet contacted Thames Water about a potential claim, and feel you’re entitled to, then please get in touch with us and we can 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 have missed certain elements of the very long Chipstead Valley Road.
If you spot any areas that need another deep clean then please do try to take a picture and email email@example.com and we’ll ensure the team are notified.
Local councillors and MPs will be invited to another meeting in a few weeks’ time for an update on the situation.
We are working together across every level of government, and across the Reigate/Croydon border to resolve this – we will get this sorted for our residents, and we left the meeting reassured that Thames Water feel exactly the same way.
As the situation progresses we will continue to update this blog. Visit www.croydonconservatives.com/coulsdonsewageleak for the latest news or contact us directly if you have any questions.