A foul smell filled the air over Abbotts Walk, Winchester yesterday.
Looking out, the problem was evident:
That’s the foul water (sewage) drain flooding up through the manhole, across the street and down Lea View. The house drains and toilets were also starting to make gurgling noises and bubble up, presumably trapped air.
So a trip up to the Sales office to notify them and get site on to the case. And just to be sure, notified Southern Water, however their response was that the drains had not been adopted by them yet and so were still the responsibility of Redrow. Their and other water companies normal procedures would be to aim to attend and clear the blockage within 12 hours then clear up and disinfect the area within 24 hours.
So cue a small flurry of activity. The trigger was identified as a contractor drilling through a water main somewhere else on site. With this stopped, most of the contaminated water drained down the road gullys to the infiltration basin that deals with the sites surface water, i.e. goes in to the groundwater by the River Itchen.
Can’t say i’m sure: a) how the leaking water from the main was entering the foul water system (that should be mostly sealed) and b) why it was overwhelming a 150mm drain?
The drain itself was blocked, and possibly had been for some time. So a few hours later a tanker arrived to pump out the drain and clear it. So well done Redrow on clearing the drain, but:
During the incident and after, the affected area was not cordoned off, or any barriers erected, signage or information posted. Contractors were driving and walking through standing pools of contaminated water spreading it around the development. Unwitting parents were pushing childrens buggies through and by early evening kids were riding the bicycles in the area. If Norovirus hits North Winchester, we’ll know where it started!
A road sweeper was sent round the morning, but didn’t disinfect the area and only swept the middle of the road, even missing the main leak area due to a parked contractor vehicle that was unaware.
Trying to get anyone in to action on a Friday afternoon/evening is always an uphill task, so who could deal with it or lodge a complaint with:
- Redrow Site:- Were doing thing their way in their time.
- Redrow Emergency Customer Services Number :- Site should be dealing with it
- Winchester Council :- Go to Hampshire County Council
- Hampshire County Council :- Go to the Water board – Southern Water, Environemnt Agency
- Environment Agency :- concerned only with surface water flow/contamination to the river.
- Southern Water :- The drains aren’t adopted, so go to the developer.
So it ‘appears’ to be a circle with no accountability required. Having looked a bit further, I actually believe it’s Winchester City Council who have the statutory duty through its Environmental Health department to protect the public health and should have picked this up.
Another avenue has been our local Councillor, Dominic Hiscock, who we are grateful to. He came round on Saturday morning to find out more and I believe got equally frustrated by the ‘circle’ and lack of accountability. He does seem like a genuine and hard working councillor with an interest for residents, we might even vote for him
So no conclusion yet, and not sure where to go next on this one.