Blocked overflow led to village flooding admits Anglian Water
Flooded homes and gardens should be a thing of the past in one Fenland village according to the local water authority.
Anglian Water representatives told a special flooding meeting at Manea Village Hall last night (Wednesday) the firm had identified what had caused homes across the village to flood three times in the past year and a half and the problem had now been addressed.
Matt Moore, Anglian Water's flood partnership manager, said a combined sewage overflow had been inexplicably bunged meaning that when there was unprecedented rainfall there was no where for the excess water to go.
He explained the overflow, which has been permitted by the Environment Agency to discharge raw sewage into a water course, has now been unblocked and an investigation under-way to find out when and why it was bunged up.
However, he said now that it has been unblocked the village sewerage system will be able to cope in periods of heavy rainfall and therefore homes should not be flooded again.
But the news has come too late for many home-owners who are counting the cost of seeing their properties flooded three times in 18 months, with the most recent incident on October 20.
One man said his home in East Street, which had been left 18 inches deep in raw sewage, was now not only uninsurable but worse still unsellable.
He said his insurance company have confirmed it will no longer insure him after paying out three times this year.
He said: "The flooding has knocked thousands of pounds of our home, and has made it uninsurable, and unsellable and that is down to Anglian Water. You have admitted here tonight that it was your blocked up overflow that has caused this, so what are you going to do about recompensing us.
"My wife is afraid to go out if it's raining because she is worried about what she will find when she gets home, and that is down to you and the fact she has had other people's effluent in our home and garden."
He pointed out that the overflow in question was in a locked compound which meant it had not been accidentally blocked up nor had it been blocked by someone other than an employee of Anglian Water.
Mr Moore denied it was entirely down to Anglian Water pointing out there were many contributing factors including blocked drainage dykes and ditches, and people illegally discharging rainwater into the foul water system.
He also denied any home was uninsurable and recommended calling a national scheme set up by the Government in the wake of floods in Cumbria to help owners of flooded properties get insurance.
However, Fenland councillor Dee Laws, who helps run Flood Watch in her home town of Whittlesey and is the district's portfolio holder for planning, said many people she had dealt with had found they could not get insurance even with the help of the scheme.
Another woman, who lives in Westfield Road, said she had a pump permanently set up in her kitchen because of flooding issues she has faced.
She said: "When we bought our home we had fields at the back and to the side of us now we have four properties adjoining us, the drain has disappeared, the houses have very small soakaways and the water is running into our gardens and house. We call Fenland planning to come out to see it, but they turn up about a week later, when the flooding has gone and nothing gets done.
"We are in our 70s and having to deal with a pump permanently in our kitchen. Please care and do something to help us."
Councillor Jan French, who has coordinated a flooding response in March and has also contributed to a flooding taskforce alongside MP Steve Barclay, said those responsible for blocking drainage dykes and ditches were now facing action and urged people to report anyone who had done so.
She said where developers had blocked dykes without permission, or properly piping them would be forced to reinstate them at their own cost and she gave an example where a group of home owners who had built garages, conservatories and sheds over a blocked up dyke, were being forced to remove them.
"We can't have dykes and ditches blocked up without permission or being properly piped as that is helping to cause the problems we are facing with flooding and action needs to be taken to stop it from happening, and to make those who do it pay - and we are doing just that. So please report any you know of," she said.
Meanwhile Manea's independent district Councillor Charlie Marks said the parish council had obtained maps of dykes and ditches in the village and appealed for anyone with information about any that had been filled in to contact the council.
Fellow parish councillor Barry Cundell said part of the problem was Fenland District Council giving planning permission for developments, knowing the infra-structure was not capable of dealing with the extra homes. But Coun Laws said the planning committee always asked questions about flooding and infra-structure capacity.
While Mr Moore said Manea's water treatment plant did have capacity but added Anglian Water could only look at capacity in dry condition scenarios when commenting on applications.
Manea parish council chairman Lisa Eves said the situation was "very frustrating" but said there was some comfort from what Anglian Water's representatives had said about the blocked overflow and added it was good news that the firm was investing £1million in the village's water treatment centre.
But she said: "The reality is we might flood again." Adding there were now plans to set up a Flood Watch in the village to help deal with that possibility and appealed for volunteers to help make that happen.