3 Parish Water Forum(St. Martins, Weston Rhyn and Gobowen)
Chair: Helen Williams Tel: 777561
Vice. Chair: Glenn Pennington Tel:778477
Minutes of the 3 Parish Water Forum Meeting with DCWW
Held at St Martins Community Centre
On Thursday 17th January 2013 at 7pm
Helen Williams Chair St M. Parish Cllr & resident of St M
Glenn Pennington Vice-Chair St M. Parish Cllr & resident of St M
Maureen Pennington Secretary Resident of St M
Neil Graham Committee Member St M. Parish Cllr & resident of St M
Brian Latham Committee Member St M. Parish Cllr & resident of St M
Shirley Willis Committee Member Resident of St M
David Hayes Resident of St M
Steve Davenport Local Cllr for St M.
Glyn Evans Weston Rhyn Parish Cllr & WR resident
Ralf Cooper Weston Rhyn Parish Cllr & WR resident
Martin Williams DCWW
Rob Evans DCWW
Alun Roberts DCWW
Ronnie Kasrick DCWW
Morgan Llwyd DCWW
Andrew Wild DCWW
Paul Roberts CCW
David Parker DPPA (Greenfields)
David Boyce St M. Parish Cllr & resident of St M
Sue Schofield St M. Parish Cllr & resident of St M
David G Hopper Resident of St.M
Robert Doman The Advertizer
John & Helen Shucker Residents of St M
Martin Key Shropshire Council
Matthew Clark Shropshire Council
[plus others in attendance but who did not register]
Owen Paterson MP, Adrian Cooper (SC), James Yeoman (Savills), Neil Coleman & Rebecca Reed (DCWW)
Affairs of the Meeting
· Helen opened the meeting and thanked all those attending the meeting and gave a brief history of the 3PWF and introduced relevant personnel.
· DCWW gave a presentation on Weston Rhyn: their operational and maintenance performance found no specific issues. They had no complaints during past 12 months about odour. Their CCTV investigations had found fat in a sewer which was removed and one route ingress which was also dealt with. The Gledrid Terrace flood alleviation works are now complete.
· Questions from the floor: Gledrid Terrace bottom end of the terrace is not level – can it be levelled. DCWW agreed a site meeting in order to level it. Sewer in front of Institute is blocked and unsatisfactory response from DCWW. DCWW agreed to a site meeting for that problem as well. The sewerage pipe over the canal inadequate for its purpose. DCWW investigate whether it is an issue – there are “remaining issues” but did not mention what they were.
Would the proposed Moreton development with its increased hard standing affect the surface water drainage into the sewers? SC said that they would make sure that surface water would not go into the sewer.
· DCWW gave a presentation on St Martins. 17 recorded flooding incidents this year. CCTV investigations had found 14 route ingresses. Trevor Ave has a fibre pipe requiring replacement. Identified 9 sites requiring work.
Statement from the Floor: why were sewer flow monitors were extracted before the prolonged heavy rainfall? DCWW replied this “often happens” and that they take their rainfall data from the Met Office. How reliable is Met Office data since they have been proved wrong about Global Warming? DCWW said “Water companies have no better source that the Met Office” and HMAs are the only other way they have of gathering data.
DCWW continued with their presentation: presented a proposed solution for the hydraulic overloads – (a) sewer upsizing of 200m from Len’s Plaice towards Garden Village (b) 180cu m storage tank to take surface water/sewage out of top end of Overton Road (c) SC to take surface water out of the system. When asked, cost was in the region of £1 million; start-date February 2013 – and that they are committed to the project; end-date tentatively March 2014.
Question from the Floor: STANs car park pours a great deal of surface water into the system. DCWW replied “We will look at that in our investigations.” Can the CSO take the extra flow? DCWW replied we are taking out more sewage and surface water so in effect we are managing the flow so it can take it.
DCWW finally said that no progress in Water company boundary.
· David L Edwards of SC briefly spoke for Adrian Cooper reference the SAMDeV situation. SC will ensure that surface water is removed from the 200 planned houses until 2026. Reporting of excess of flood water must be directed to SC. Because of new planning regulations, they have “clout” with property developers to ensure surface water is removed from the sewerage system.
· David Hayes narrated the history of the flooding of his property and his grievance that neither DCWW nor SC had solved the problem.CSC Highways had cleared surface water problem but sewage surcharge in main Overton Road sewer was still causing problems internal to his house and adjacent GP Surgery. DCWW repeated that the upsize sewage pipe would solve his problem (interim install a NRV) and SC said that surface water would be directed into Clarkes Lane.
· Glenn Pennington commended DCWW that after about 15 years DCWW had finally agreed to improve the sewerage infrastructure. His questions had largely been addressed during the meeting. But asked whether the two proposed property developments could now proceed. DCWW reply was in the affirmative. Asked did there exist a loophole between LPA and DCWW and a property developer whereby a hydraulic overload situation could arise for which neo party would be responsible for it? Answer was that current and forthcoming legislation would prevent that from happening.
· Neil Graham thanked DCWW and repeated their history of poor response and emphasised that St Martins requires these property development in order to acquire recreational facilities. The 3PWF are for property development now that the sewerage infrastructure is guaranteed to be improved.
· Steve Davenport was expecting typical DCWW negativity and had to rephrase his remarks. He thanked the 3PWF in particular the Vice-Chair for all their hard work.
· Helen Williams concluded the meeting with thanks to everyone.
· The Meeting closed at 2120hrs.
“The Vice-Chair of the Three Parish Water Forum writes,
had admitted that we experience Hydraulic Overloads.
The attached PDF (click here to see the PDF) is your evidence. Neil Coleman admits that three sewage flooding incidents were the result of “Hydraulic Overload”. An hydraulic overload (HO) technically is a dramatic slowing down of sewage flow downhill in a sewerage system such that sewage level rises in the sewer (it appears to backflow) and then overflows out of manholes/drains into the street and into back gardens/houses. It is not so much a backflow upstream more an overspill such as when you turn on the water tap too quickly and the bottle underneath takes in some water but a lot spills over. It can be caused by debris blocking a sewer but in St Martins and especially in our main Overton Road sewer it is the sudden and transient increase in fluid which causes the HO. The surface water in St Martins drains into our sewerage system and has been doing for nearly a century. We have a combined surface water drainage and sewerage system. In the early days our sewerage system was adequate for the number of houses. But St Martins has expanded in dwellings over the years even more so in the past twenty years. More houses means more sewage. But more importantly more houses/shops/industrial estates means less permeable surface area, less porous ground to soak in the water bouncing off the tarmac. That is why householders are encouraged to have soakaways. In normal rainfall our combined sewerage system is working at maximum capacity. But in excessive rainfall, our sewerage system cannot take the inrush of surface water and we experience hydraulic overloads. The last mild winter and spring muted our HOs but continuous rainfall throughout April, May, half of June, July and August, has brought water levels back to normal in the parched countryside such that HOs are re-occurring.
We have been experiencing HOs for many years. Since 1997 villagers in St Martins and Weston Rhyn, working on their own and in various Flood Forums, have been trying to convince DCWW that we experience HOs and what are they going to about it? Over the years DCWW, the utility that is responsible for our sewage collection, have procrastinated and prevaricated our claims primarily through their public relations people. A brief dip into the recent history of the formation of Welsh Water reveals that it had a bad start. In 1999/2000, following the Windfall Tax on utility profits and the 1999 Ofwat price review, Welsh Water was sold to Glas Cymru, a company especially set up to own DCWW for the public benefit, for £1, along with £1.85 billion of debt. Thus in its formation DCWW inherited debt and a chaotic management structure. Since 2000, DCWW’s PR people were more concerned with stalling complaints than sorting them out. This they have done successfully for over a decade. The inherited debt meant that they went cap-in-hand to Ofwat to ask that an extra “sewerage standing charge” be taxed on water bills under the guise that Wales has a rural population requiring an expensive maintenance of its mountainous/countryside/seaside sewerage infrastructure. Ofwat agreed to that request ignoring the fact that Glas Cymru had inherited a financially viable sewerage infrastructure system. Since 2000, DCWW has slowly been getting its management act together. On January 31st in Wrexham this year, Nigel Annett, MD of DCWW, apologised to myself, Maureen and Shirley (committee members of 3PWF) reference the mismanagement of DCWW in St Martins and ensured us that there would be a wind of change in cooperation. This has been slowly, if not reluctantly, forthcoming.
Neil Coleman has finally admitted on the behalf of DCWW that St Martins experiences HOs. Right. Confession is one thing but what are they going to do about it? St Martins needs an enlarged sewer in Overton road running down to the pumping station in Escob. Maybe it also needs a revamped pumping station? Will DCWW put their money where their mouth is? Our scenario is complicated by the fact that the Water Company boundary divides St Martins so both Severn Trent and DCWW own half of St Martins sewerage infrastructure and must maintain their own half. But all sewage bills in St Martins are paid to DCWW. Moves were afoot to let DCWW take over the whole of St Martins sewerage infrastructure (meaning all householders in St Martins would pay the extra standing sewage charge) but that is currently on the back-burner. The 3PWF want DCWW completely out of St Martins and let Severn Trent, one of the cheapest Water Companies for both water and sewage, be the sole operator. That is one of our aims. Another and more practical, is to get a new sewerage infrastructure system in St Martins from DCWW. Since DCWW service Weston Rhyn we are keeping a committee member of 3PWF who lives in WR in the loop in the hope that our experience may encourage villagers in WR to be more pro-active against DCWW.
The 3 Parish Water Forum are concerned about the inadequate sewerage infrastructure in St Martins. The cloudburst over St Martins on Sunday 8th July caused sewage to backfill into gardens and onto public highways. All sewage flooding must be reported to DC Welsh Water on 0800 085 03968. But that number is often engaged so folks do not report sewage incidents and instead clean up the mess themselves. But DCWW rely on reported sewage incidents because they are “undergoing a full and comprehensive investigation to the capacity of the sewer network” (quote from a DCWW letter). Thus if sewage incidents are not reported DCWW will get an inaccurate picture of the condition of our sewerage infrastructure. Please persist in reporting sewage incidents to DCWW. In order to help DCWW with their task, would villagers please also report sewage incidents to members of the 3PWF, whether they are or are not successful in contacting DCWW? We are interested in hearing about incidents of sewage overflow, whether it be onto the public highway, back garden, or into houses. If you have a shut non-return valve, or blocked sewerage drain, please could you inform us? We would like to know even if you do manage to contact DCWW and they do sort out your problem! The point of this is to compile a dossier of sewage incidents that we can present to DCWW to show them that we need their financial investment in our sewerage infrastructure, now and not later, when it will be too late. Please contact Helen 777561 or Glenn 778477. Thank you.
The Three Parish Water Forum (3PWF) was formed by residents in St Martins dissatisfied with the service provided by, and charges paid to, the water company Dyr Cymru Welsh Water (DCWW). It incorporates the concerns of dissatisfied customers in Gobowen and Weston Rhyn hence its name. The two water companies that operate in Shropshire are Severn Trent Water (STW) and DCWW. In St Martins, everyone pays their water bill to STW but not everyone pays the same amount for sewerage collection. This is because the water company boundary line divides St Martins which means that customers on one side pay sewerage charges set by DCWW while customers on the other side pay sewerage charges set by STW. The problem is that sewerage charges paid to DCWW are much higher than those paid to STW so either you or your neighbour can be paying a much higher sewerage bill even though you are co-located and you use the same sewerage pipes!
The 3PWF Committee contacted the Rt Hon Owen Patterson MP with our concerns about this discrepancy and he forwarded our letter to DCWW. In reply to Mr Paterson, the managing director of DCWW, Mr Annett wrote,
“For St Martins our joint proposal with Severn Trent Water is for the boundary to be moved to the south of the community, which would mean that all customers would become Welsh Water customers.”
The 3PWF thus discovered that DCWW and STW have been in consultation for some time about rationalisation of sewerage infrastructures along the Welsh-English border. With respect to St Martins, their joint proposal is that STW give up their half of St Martins to DCWW such that everyone in St Martins will pay sewerage charges solely to DCWW! This is not good news because DCWW are permitted by OFWAT to impose a permanent extra “standing charge” to the cost of sewerage collection which can be around 35% of the total water bill. It means that everyone in St Martins will then pay 100% higher sewerage charges! Undoubtedly DCWW will try to sugar the bitter pill in some way but why is this happening in the first place? Why cannot the English water company of STW have responsibility for water provision and sewerage collection for the English parishes of St Martins, Gobowen and Weston Rhyn?
The aim of the 3PWF is therefore to get the water company boundary pushed back to the River Ceiriog, the natural Welsh-English boundary. This would mean that the English water company Severn Trent Water, instead of the Dyr Cymru Welsh Water, would have jurisdiction over our three English parishes and we would all pay cheaper water bills. It is hoped to have a public meeting in the St Martins Community Centre in June with representatives of DCWW and STW and possibly with our MP in order to air our concerns and to question their decisions. There will be notices put up in public places informing you of the date and time of this event. The American author, Alice Walker wrote, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” Our collective voice does have a power and we do think that we can make a difference but we need your support. Please attend if you can.”