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HARD TIMES: Flooding and sewage in streets leaves The Chalfonts looking ‘Dickensian’

 Published on: 6th March 2024   |   By: Annabel Stock   |   Category: Uncategorized

A parish councillor says that recent incidents of sewage in the streets of Chalfont St Peter are reminiscent of Dickensian London.

The flooding, which started in January following a period of very heavy rainfall, has left the local community dealing with waterlogged streets and brought many businesses to a standstill.

As well as this, sewage has burst through manhole covers and into the streets.

The Environment Agency has deemed the incident a category 1 event, which means it has a serious, extensive or persistent impact on the environment, people or property.

Parish councillor Karen Dickson said: “Sewage in the streets? Maybe expected in Dickensian London, not Chalfont St Peter in 2024.”

On Saturday, February 3, the not-for-profit River Chess Association shared a photo of the bed of the River Misbourne.

The post read: “The River Misbourne has been receiving hundreds of hours of sewage discharges from the Gerrards Cross Sewage Treatment Works and continuous discharge from the sewer mains. The result is known as sewage fungus.”

CHALFONTS&GERRARDSCROSSnews spoke to Paul Jennings, chair of the River Chess Association, which also checks the health of the River Misbourne. The River Misbourne is a chalk stream, which means it receives most of its water from the underground chalk aquifer. This water is known as groundwater, and it bubbles up through the riverbed. Paul explains that following a period of heavy rainfall, the chalk aquifer became saturated, which meant increased flow into the river. The river then breached its banks and flooded the village’s streets.

Groundwater, however, is not the only problem villagers have been forced to contend with. Sewage pipes which run through under the village on their way to a sewer treatment plant at Maple Lodge were inundated with groundwater, which flowed in through cracks in the pipes and manhole covers. This surcharge caused sewage to burst through manhole covers and into the village’s streets.

Now Thames Water is battling to manage the situation by using tankers to remove sewage from the system. This is then taken to other treatment plants, therefore alleviating pressure on the system.

The problem, Paul says, is that most local treatment plants are already at full capacity, so are then forced to discharge this sewage into local rives.

Paul said: “The capacity of the sewer network needs to be increased and made secure so that groundwater doesn’t get into the system.”

Paul believes, however, that there is another reason for the severe flooding in Chalfont St Peter.

He said: “Over a decade ago, we voiced our prediction that putting concrete pipes through the chalk aquifer – required for HS2 – carried the significant risk of changing the nature of the dynamic mobile water system in the rock.”

On February 27, local councillors met with Thames Water, Bucks Highways and the Environment Agency to discuss reopening Chalfont St Peter car park as soon as possible to encourage customers back into the village’s shops.

Councillor and Conservative Parliamentary candidate Gareth Williams shares Paul’s belief that tankers will likely remain in the village for many more weeks as they work around the clock to mitigate the problem.

A group of residents, including parish councillor Karen Dickson, took to the streets with large inflatable faeces in a nod to the sewage plaguing the village’s streets.

Writing on social media, cllr Dickson said: “The sewage situation down at the bottom of Market Place is dire, and our residents have had enough! Make no mistake – there is poo in the water.”

A Thames Water spokesperson said: “We’re very sorry that customers are still affected by ongoing high water levels and flooding in Amersham/Chalfont St Peter. The excessively heavy rain that the region has experienced since early January means the groundwater and river levels remain very high in this area and the ground is saturated. A significant amount of this water is entering the local sewer system and causing flooding at low points. 

“We continue to work around the clock to manage these excess flows that are entering into our network to prevent flooding at Chalfont St Peter and Denham Way. We’re doing this by maximising capacity in the sewer network through tankering and the installation of large overpump systems. Traffic management will remain in place while we carry out this work.

“Our absolute priority is to avoid further flooding to customers’ properties while the high groundwater and river levels remain high and continue to impact our sewers. We will continue to monitor the situation and work with our partners, the Environment Agency and Local Authorities, who manage river flooding and local drainage respectively.”

A spokesperson for HS2 Ltd said: “Recent flooding in Chalfont St Peter was caused by heavy rainfall, not HS2 works.”

Photo credit: Henry’s Adventures

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