Thames Water face grilling over floods and leaks
Hampstead has been worst hit by pipe bursts
21 February, 2020 — By Samantha Booth
Flooding in Somers Town last year
THAMES Water is to face questions from councillors next week over the number of leaks in the borough and the private company’s response.
Papers that will go before the culture and environment scrutiny committee on Tuesday night reveal how Hampstead Town has had the most leak-associated work over the last five years.
The company came under the spotlight last June after a major burst in Eversholt Street, Euston, which flooded homes, a mosque and a homeless hostel, shutting the road for 50 days for repairs.
There was a less serious leak in September – but that was the third within 18 months, sending nearby residents into panic.
Other leaks with large- scale impact include West End Lane in January, Avenue Road in July 2016 and 2018 and Belsize Road in July 2018.
Labour councillor Awale Olad, committee chairman, said: “We will be having an open, honest, and mostly robust discussion with Thames Water. The environmental and financial impact of these sudden and sometimes explosive floods should be properly scrutinised and measures to address underperformance be put forward. That’s precisely what we are going to do.”
In a report, officers said although Thames Water replaced many smaller pipes in Holborn and Covent Garden, Frognal and Fitzjohn’s and Kilburn wards, it has “left a considerable number of large cast-iron mains and lead piping in Camden”.
These types of pipe, which can be up to 150 years old, are more prone to cracking, whereas new plastic pipes are less likely to leak.
They add: “The water pipes that remain in the borough are vulnerable and officers are currently not aware of any plans for further replacements in the borough.”
Thames Water has not met its leakage performance targets since 2015, the report states. A “new deal” was launched last July. However, officers say communication on strategies has been “poor” and officers have received no updates on how Camden will be impacted.
“The new deal promised greater investment in trunk main replacement which officers felt was a positive step since the last engagement to discuss further VMR [Victorian Mains Replacement] in the Hampstead area ceased pre the seminars in October 2018, as Thames Water claimed it was cost prohibitive,” they said.
They do praise the company’s response to emergencies – for a recent comparable large burst it took 30 minutes for boots on the ground, compared to three and a half hours in 2017. Work is to continue this year on the pipe in Eversholt Street, shutting one lane of traffic.
In a presentation by Thames Water due before councillors, they say Camden has improved from having the second highest number of bursts per borough in 2000 to being in line with the London average.
Thames Water is putting its latest plans together for each borough based on Ofwat’s final determination of the company’s business plan for 2020-2025 announced last Friday.
A spokesman said: “We look forward to next week’s scrutiny committee and are grateful for the opportunity to answer any questions.”