A leaking water tank has caused an elderly couple’s picturesque garden to be submerged in raw sewage.

Patrick and Jane Frizoni, both 70, have been no strangers to flooding over the past year. Though they had never experienced it in the “many, many years” the couple has inhabited Dell Cottage on Church Road in Penn, High Wycombe, from April 2023 onwards, it has been a worryingly frequent occurrence.

It all stems back, Patrick said, to the damage sustained to a soakaway and water storage tank located beneath a car park in a layby close to the property. The tank, which he believes is owned by Buckinghamshire Highways, has been leaking since early this year, causing a sinkhole to open and putting pressure on underground sewage pipes, causing them to crack and pump out onto the nearby land.

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Today (October 30) marks the third time this year that Patrick and Jane have seen the containment of Penn’s sewer system rise up in their garden, with the first instance being in February and the second in July – when the flooding centrally afflicted nearby pub, The Horse and Jockey, but still managed to permeate the couple's summer house and ruin many of their grandchildren’s toys.

Because the sewage pipes are owned by Thames Water and the tanker is under the jurisdiction of the local authority, it has felt like a hopeless cause to petition effective remedial action, Patrick added, describing the frustrating back-and-forth between the two as “a real pain”.

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“We’ve been told by Buckinghamshire Highways to call the fire brigade if it gets too bad, but they don’t want to know. What they need to do is dig up the layby car park, put a new water tank in and a new store in the soakaway.”

Unlike past flooding, a sinkhole actually opened in Patrick and Jane’s garden yesterday evening and periodically more waste, with floating excrement and toilet paper, continues to rise out of the ground – prompting Jane to line the house’s veranda with sandbags in case the levels continue to rise.

Jane said she is especially worried about the autumn and winter weather, and the repercussions further flooding could have for the property, as well as their health and that of their visiting children and grandchildren.

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“When the water was pumping out this morning, it was so fierce that it pushed open the summerhouse doors even though there were sandbags in front of it. Everything in there will be ruined now, all the chairs and the garden furniture, and the building will need repainting and re-everything.

“From July to what’s happening now, nothing meaningful has been done. And lots of rain is expected this week, which really scares me.”

Patrick added: “We’ve been told that what this needs is a long-term solution, but we don’t have time for the long-term. the house will flood, and the garden will become unusable. The smell is already terrible, too, because it is just raw sewage.

“It’s absolutely dire. It’s a disaster and it just keeps getting worse.”

Bucks Free Press:

A spokesperson for Thames Water said: “We are sorry to residents in Church Road, Penn, who have experienced sewer flooding in their garden.

"Our teams have investigated and identified damage to one of our waste pipes caused a sinkhole nearby.

“Our engineers and customer representatives are currently at the property in question to carry out a clean-up of the area and begin mitigation to prevent the property from flooding.

“We are also working with partner organisations and authorities to determine responsibility of the sinkhole and steps which can be taken to resolve the problem.”

Peter Martin, Buckinghamshire Council’s Deputy Cabinet Member for Transport, said: “We are aware of this situation and understand how unpleasant this must be for the residents who are impacted.

"We have liaised directly with them over this issue and have provided emergency assistance with sandbags plus have deployed a gully cleansing machine to come to the site to ensure the highway drainage system is clear and cannot be contributing to the problem.

"We are urgently working with Thames Water to investigate the root cause of this issue and to work up a long-term solution.”