Twice within a week this month Long Wittenham resident Peter Surridge has come home to find his garden flooded with sewage. And this is not the first time that Mr Surridge, who lives in Lay’s Courtyard towards the eastern end of High Street, has been swamped. A similar flood occurred in April and December last year.
The cause is a blockage in a six-inch diameter pipe which serves properties on both the north and sound sides of High Street. The north side homes are on a slightly higher elevations and experience fewer flood problems.
Mr Surridge is calling on Thames Water to ensure that improvement works are carried out to the sewage system in the whole village before any new development is allowed. He plans to write to local MP Ed Vaizey calling for action to rectify the problem.
Mr Surridge said: “The system can’t cope. Thames Water says there is nothing wrong with the existing sewer but clearly there is a problem. The company says it relies on spreading better education about the proper use of fat disposal into the sewer system. Blockages are happening too frequently. The company’s education programme is patently inadequate.”
He says that before the Kler development off Fieldside for thirty-six homes is allowed to proceed and the Community Hub plans with more than forty new homes are approved, Thames Water and local authorities must ensure that the village sewage system can cope with the extra demand the new homes will place on the system.
Mr Surridge is not the only resident to experience problems. Last year the home of Harald Drew at Church Farm Barns suffered from sewage over flows and he too wants Thames Water and local councils to take action to prevent more flooding.
The latest incident last week occurred in the main sewer pipe which runs the length of the High Street taking sewage for treatment at the plant in Northfield Lane. Staff from the drains specialist company Lanes – sub-contractors to Thames Water – rodded a section of the main sewer from the grass triangle near the bend. Later, a water truck began flushing the system at the other end of High Street near the Cross.
What is called a “rag ball” was found in the main sewer pipe. On Friday Lanes sent workers to clean up the mess left by the flood in Mr Surridge’s garden area. He said afterwards: “Thames Water relies excessively on members of the public to manage their response to these problems instead of having good business processes and a close relationship with their contractors whose prompt appearance this week was at least partially due to the fuss I’ve made on previous occasions.”
The Parish Council has told Thames Water and South Oxfordshire District Council that the current sewage system is under strain and that improvements are needed before new homes are approved.