Residents feel abandoned as sewage pollutes their street

Bucks Free Press: Residents feel abandoned as sewage pollutes their street Residents feel abandoned as sewage pollutes their street

RESIDENTS said they feel abandoned after having to cope with sewage flowing into their street and gardens, while a doctors surgery nearly had to close its doors.

Manholes in Valley Road, Hughenden Valley are overflowing resulting in a stream of diluted sewage on the pavement and outside homes, which has faeces floating in it.

Just next to the flow of polluted water children have to stand to wait for their school bus.

And The Hughenden Valley Surgery came close to shutting temporarily after its downstairs toilets were out of use and patients were forced to go through contaminated water.

Resident Simon Cook has had a pump operating 24/7 in a manhole in his front garden since February 14 to try and keep the water level down around his house. He has spent £400 so far.

He said: "We haven't slept upstairs since that day as we have to attend to the pump every two hours.

"We are on our own. They keep telling us it is not Thames Water's responsibility. They keep saying it is the Environment Agency and Wycombe District Council and other people.

"But it has got to be their responsibility- it is their drain."

He added: "We feel totally abandoned by Thames Water. We have been offered very little help."

Thames Water is responsible for the public water supply and waste water treatment in the Thames Valley.

They said the high groundwater in the area is causing their sewers to discharge and said they need to work with the local authority, which Thames Water said is responsible for managing and controlling groundwater.

Neighbour David White said he has lived in his home for 30 years, and the same thing happened in 2001.

Back then problems started on January 3, and at the time Thames Water contractors provided four pumps. The final pump didn't leave the area until August.

He said: "I would say Thames Water currently would rank in a league of who do you hate the most- they would be first and bankers at about fifth.

"They are not taking us seriously. They have not offered us practical help. We are prisoners in our own home."

The sewage is also going into the Hughenden Valley Chalk Stream behind the houses, which then flows into the Wye. Many think the problem is caused by large sewage pipes feeding into smaller pipes. Along with the extra groundwater this is causing the drains to overflow. The doctor's surgery, which has 13,000 patients on its books has come close to closing.

They were not able to use the downstairs toilets but WDC provided portable toilets, which patients can use.

Practice manager, Jeremy Pinner said one of their concerns is the contaminated water at the front of the surgery gates.

He said: "We can't have patients in and our of the surgery stepping in and out of contaminated water.

"For now we are staying open. If the weather gets as bad as it did a couple of weeks ago that will become a problem again."

County councillor David Carroll said there needs to be an urgent meeting between all of the authorities to address the problem, which he said he is furious about.

Allen Beechey, from Chilterns AONB Conservation Board, said: "It is quite difficult for us as conservation board because obviously it is having an impact on the environment and the chalk streams, which is a key feature of the Chilterns.

"We are not responsible for the drains, we are also not the regulator which is the Environment Agency. All I can say it is very disconcerting that this happens- it is not the first time.

"This happens frequently when ground water levels are high or when there has been heavy rainfall."

He said long term solutions needs to be addressed.

He added: "It is the consequence of an ageing network. A lot of this sewer network was put down in Victorian times. It has only been upgraded piecemeal as and when problems arise or when there are major changes in sewage infrastructure."

Chairman of the Residents Association, Tony Konieczny, has written to local MPs David Lidington and Steve Baker asking for them to ensure Thames Water provides a long term solution.

Sarah Sharpe, spokesman for Thames Water, said: "The concerns of our Hughenden customers are very clear to us, and so we will work closely with the local authority to thoroughly investigate the impact of groundwater in our sewer pipes."

She added: The wettest winter on record has meant our sewer network, which is only designed to take away waste water from homes and businesses, has been overwhelmed with flood water. Groundwater in the area is exceptionally high and is causing our sewers to discharge.

"Surveys carried out over the weekend found no blockages in our pipes, which suggests the problem is the sheer volume of water in our network, but we’ll continue to investigate and an engineer will be visiting the area to carry out further investigations."

Spokesman for Wycombe District Council, Catherine Spalton said: "In light of a further complaint we received overnight, two environmental health officers surveyed the situation again this morning (Tuesday). The problem is sewage surcharging out of the Thames Water sewer in front of the properties and bus stop used by school pupils as it has been overwhelmed with groundwater.

"We provided sandbags and one portaloo to the affected properties, in addition to the two portaloos we provided the surgery.

"We understand that local residents are disappointed with the response from Thames Water."

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