Homeowners living in a Derbyshire village street have spoken of their distress after the same sewer pipe burst for a third consecutive year, leaving them with flooded driveways, gardens, and an overpowering stench of human waste. The residents of 120, 122, and 124 London Road, in Shardlow, woke up to the “intense smell” of sewage on Friday morning, May 6.
Jonathan Walsh, 42, who lives at No.122 with wife Kim and their 14-month-old daughter Millie, was getting ready to head out to work at 5.30am when he found No.120’s driveway and surrounding area flooded with sewer water. For a third year in a row, a nearby Severn Trent Water (STW) pipe had burst.
Kim, 41, said: “As this had happened twice before we were already waiting for another occurrence to happen as we had no long-term solution put in place from STW to protect us. Both myself and my husband have lived under a cloud of anxiety wondering when it will flood again.
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“When my husband discovered the flood water I was with our 14-month-old baby trying to call STW while he rushed around trying to raise the neighbors and prevent the water flooding our property. Both of us felt extremely anxious all day until we were finally told they have found and are replacing the damaged pipework. Jonathan was at work while his family was left to deal with the situation which caused him extreme levels of stress.”
A Severn Trent spokeswoman says the water company is “really sorry” for the disruption caused. Workers attended the scene at 8am on Friday morning, May 6 after they were first made aware just before 6am. Tankers and engineers returned to fully reinstate the pipe the following day, Saturday, May 7, to allow everything to get back to normal.
But the residents say only the six-metre section which burst has been repaired, rather than a complete replacement of the full approximately 100-metre long pipe. This has left Gary and Karen Cooper worrying about “when is it going to happen again”.
The couple, who live at No.120, say they were worst hit last July when sewer water ran into their property “ruining the carpets, settee and décor”. While relieved last week’s incident was not as bad as last year’s, Gary, 64, and Karen, 58, say they are feeling more and more worn down by the fear of it happening again.
They said: “It hit us hard again this year, we had to go out with brushes and tools to try to dig channels to run the sewer water away from our properties. We only got our new settee a month ago, our carpet two months ago, after living with mats and individual chairs since July, 2021.
“It was very stressful getting compensation last time, as well the trauma of the event. The thought is always there, when is it going to happen again? having to move stuff each night and when we go away, we can never be sure as to the safety of our property and garden.
“This as you can imagine wears you down. We cannot live like this. Why STW will not replace the pipe (100 meters in length). Instead of replacing bits at a time is beyond me.”
Charlotte Topliss-Grace, who lives at No.124 with her husband and two kids, aged six and 13, says the residents are involved in an ongoing insurance battle with STW. The 41-year-old says the water company is refusing to accept liability, and she has been unimpressed by the goodwill gestures handed out to residents.
Charlotte, who works as an executive assistant in the healthcare sector, said: “The smell is horrendous every year. It is so upsetting and frustrating because last year it took months and months to try and settle a claim.
“It is the stress of being put in this position every year, we have to go through all these hoops every time we need to lodge a complaint, only for Severn Trent to come back and say they are not liable. The first year we got a £50 goodwill gesture, the second year when every single property had sewer water in their gardens it was £250.
“We’re wading through the water and brushing it out onto the main pathway, so it doesn’t just affect us, but also the people traveling through the village. We had seven tankers outside our house at one point on Friday.
“It has not actually gone into anyone’s property this year (only the driveway of No.122), but we’re constantly worrying every year that it might enter the back garden. There is no reassurance why this is happening every year or even a long-term solution.”
In a statement released on Friday afternoon, May 6, a Severn Trent spokeswoman said: “We’re incredibly really sorry for the disruption caused by a burst sewer pipe by London Road, as we know how devastating experiencing any kind of flooding can be. Our teams were on site first thing this morning when we were made aware of the issues, and have now repaired the pipe.
“Our teams will be returning in the morning to reinstate the area fully, and ensure everything is back to how it was with the network flowing as normal. Again, we’re incredibly sorry for the inconvenience, and want to thank everyone’s patience and understanding as we work to get everything back to normal.”
The first incident, reported on April 6, 2020, impacted Gary and Karen’s property at No.120, and sewage water also entered the back garden of No.122. Charlotte recalled what happened and said: “Manhole covers were opened to relieve pressure and the flooded area of sewer water was not as severe at the second. The reason we were not as impacted was because we borrowed a pump from a local farmer.
“Severn Trent had six tankers that were on and off outside the houses for seven days (day and night) causing all residents not only noise disruption but also flashing lights permanently on outside bedroom windows disrupting sleep. The tankers were outside the house pumping the excrement for over seven days until the pipe work was repaired.”
But the worst of the three incidents took place on July 7, last year. As its most severe point, Charlotte says it was just two centimeters away from coming through the back door of her property at No.124.
She said: “It only didn’t (enter our property) due to it being stopped because we opened the surrounding manholes to stop it coming in our house, which was difficult to even find due to the high level of sewer water we had to wade through.
“The incident that occurred in July was so much worse whereby the sewage rose much higher and much quicker. As this was the second time it had occurred, it shows how unacceptable and insufficient their so-called repairs were in April, 2020, where they only replaced a 5ft length of pipe and a year later we were facing the same problem but 10 times worse.
“All the items in my outbuildings that were/are at floor level were ruined some of which were brand-new and sitting in there for dry storage. My garden was ruined and was covered in excrement, my grass was contaminated (no place for a child to play in).
“My garden furniture was also sodden in sewage and all my raised sleeper beds that was fitted the previous year were contaminated and sodden in excrement. My children broke up from school the week this occurred and couldn’t play in their own garden.”