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Stoke Newington flooding: Thames Water ‘got risk assessment wrong’

PUBLISHED: 09:58 19 January 2017

The road was flooded yesterday afternoon but the pipe had been leaking all week. Picture: Hackney Police

The road was flooded yesterday afternoon but the pipe had been leaking all week. Picture: Hackney Police

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Thames Water has admitted it “got it wrong” by not fixing a leaking pipe in Stoke Newington last month in the week before it burst.

People were evacuated from their homes by medics who brought their dinghys. Picture: @LAS_HARTPeople were evacuated from their homes by medics who brought their dinghys. Picture: @LAS_HART

Representatives from the water company were grilled last night at an Islington Town Hall meeting over their response to the two floods in Upper Street and Northwold Road.

Victims of the burst water mains – some of whom had their Christmas ruined – packed out the room, but were told from the off they wouldn’t be able to quiz the officials until separate meetings in February.

Their elected officials did a decent job in picking up the baton, though, and it was Thames Water that was very much the villain of the piece.

The reps managed to skirt around the issue of whether bursting pipes was an increasing problem in the capital by not having any statistics to hand – except that there had been 20 major incidents in the last year.

People were evacuated from their homes by the emergency services who brought their dinghys. Picture: @LAS_HARTPeople were evacuated from their homes by the emergency services who brought their dinghys. Picture: @LAS_HART

But that didn’t stop councillors accusing the privatised firm of not dipping into its pockets for pipe maintenance.

“If it wasn’t for Hackney’s emergency planning officers you lot wouldn’t have even known about the leak,” argued King’s Park’s Cllr Sharon Patrick.

She was responding to Thames Water’s representative saying the company did have prevention tactics in place and didn’t simply wait for a pipe to burst before taking action, as suggested by some. The leaking pipe in Northwold Road had been reported to Thames Water six days before it burst.

“On the Tuesday a surveyor was seen on site. On Wednesday there was nothing, on Thursday barriers went up and on Friday and Saturday there was nothing,” Cllr Patrick continued.

Thames water works at the junction of Stoke Newington High Street and Northwold RoadThames water works at the junction of Stoke Newington High Street and Northwold Road

“There was water bubbling under the ground. It don’t need an expert to tell you that. Then it bursts and causes mayhem. The sandbags had to be asked for by the council! You shouldn’t be relying on Hackney Council to bring sandbags down.

“It seems to me you knew about the leak in Hackney and walked away from it. Instead of dealing with a small leak it burst.

“You’re not putting money into the infrastructure to repair mains and stop them leaking. It’s probably costing you more money in the long run anyway.”

The Thames Water rep, who said 22 people and businesses had been affected by the flooding, suggested if the company ripped up the road every time there was a reported leak the whole capital would be in gridlock.

“We got it wrong in this case,” he admitted. “But if you went and dug up every 100 leaks that get reported every day it would cause gridlock. You can’t just turn up unless it’s an emergency.

“Our risk assessment on this one wasn’t right.”

Another Thames Water rep said there had been no overriding factor for the eight bursts since October.

Both TfL and Thames accepted the bursts were unacceptable and apologised for the devastation they had caused.

Thames Water, which takes full responsibility, confirmed a “forensic review” into the bursts would be published in February and that both the Upper Street and Stoke Newington pipes would have a 3in plastic lining installed to prevent it happening again.

London Assembly member for both Hackney and Islington Jennette Arnold was also at the town hall and went in strongly saying “enough is enough”. She will take the matter further at a City Hall scrutiny meeting in the morning, which both councils will also attend. They and Thames Water will face questions over the effects of their responses to the flooding, their handling of warning signs, maintenance and investment and other kinds of flood risk, such as rainfall.


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