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Hambledon flooding – Southern Water update

Southern Water has praised the flood-hit villagers of Hambledon as the company continues to keep the local sewerage system working.

Prolonged rain means the water table has risen at an alarming rate – 20 metres in five days – causing surface water flooding that has inundated local sewers.

Southern Water Director of Communications Geoff Loader was in the village yesterday to talk to villagers and the other agencies involved, including the Hambledon Flood Action Group, the parish council, Hampshire County Council and the Environment Agency.

He said: “The situation in Hambledon is extreme but the villagers’ response has been tremendous.

“Our teams on the ground are doing all they can to restore normal sewerage service. The people of Hambledon have been taking good care of our staff while they do this and we are grateful for their support and understanding, as well as their praise for the work of our teams.”

Southern Water has been working hard to keep its sewers flowing, while Hampshire County Council, Environment Agency and the flood action group deal with the floods.

The excess groundwater, which the sewers were not designed to carry, has got into the pipes, overwhelming them. Some road gullies on the highway drains, which are four inches below flood water, have also been connected to the sewer. This means some customers have had difficulty using their wastewater services, such as toilets and sinks, as the flows have nowhere to go.

Southern Water has had up to ten tankers in the area, sucking the flood water from the sewers and taking it to nearby treatment works. It has also installed six temporary pumps in the village to pump even more water out of the sewers, allowing customers in the village to continue to use their waste services.

Geoff said the company was committed to continuing its work to survey and seal the village’s sewers to give them greater protection from rain and groundwater. This work started last year.

However, this will not resolve the groundwater or surface water flooding issues in the area which need to be addressed by organisations including the Environment Agency and county council.

He said: “Our sewers, along with other agencies’ drainage systems, are suffering the effects of the excessive groundwater.

“As the sewerage company, Southern Water is not the agency responsible for investigating and solving groundwater, river flooding or surface water problems.

“However, we must ensure our customers can continue to use their wastewater services and this is our priority.

“The issue of flooding is complex with various agencies, including local authorities and the Environment Agency, responsible for different aspects of drainage. We will be taking part in the post-incident review and will be supportive of any proposals from the council or the Environment Agency that help protect Hambledon from this extreme weather in future.”

Notes to Editors:

  • Groundwater inundates sewers through cracks in joints caused by ground movements over the years, as well as through customers’ private lateral pipes. The sewers then become full of wastewater, heavily diluted by groundwater
  • Usually, the flows of wastewater in sewers are transported from properties to a treatment works by gravity or via pumping stations. These pumping stations are designed to push a specified amount of wastewater to the treatment works and the sewers are designed to carry a certain amount of waste – these amounts define the capacity of the system.
  • When the system becomes overwhelmed, customers may have problems using their wastewater services such as flushing toilets and using showers and sinks as the waste flows have nowhere to go.
  • We are committed to making further improvements to the sewerage system in Hambledon.
  • Bearing in mind that the optimum time for locating leaks is when the level of groundwater is marginally above the sewer and falling, we will return to conduct further work in the northern part of the village when conditions are appropriate.
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