Below is the latest update sent by Greg to constituents:
I thought you may wish to have an update on the situation with South East Water – I hope you don’t mind that it is in a form that I can share with the very many constituents who have been in contact with me about this appalling service.
Having met the South East Water Chief Executive David Hinton in Tunbridge Wells yesterday, I spoke to him by phone this evening.
I’m afraid that the news is not what it should be. South East Water expect more outages tonight, with supplies likely to resume during the day tomorrow (Tuesday) but with demand likely to outstrip supply again tomorrow evening before improving following that. However, given the record of previous days – indeed weeks – I treat that estimate with a degree of caution.
It might be of interest to know what I understand from my conversation with the Chief Executive to be the basic engineering of the current disruption, since I don’t think it has been clearly explained.
The underground reservoir which serves part of Tunbridge Wells – on the corner of the Pembury Road and Blackhurst Lane – has only around 20 to 25% of its capacity filled with treated drinking water, when it should be between 75% and 90%.
It fell to such a low level because it was not refilled when the floods last month took out the water treatment works at Groombridge and Tonbridge, which supply the reservoir. At this level, most properties which are below the level of the reservoir – and are therefore supplied by the force of gravity – can still receive water supplies. But in areas above the height of the reservoir, water needs to be pumped to them and the intake for this is at the level of around 20% capacity in the reservoir. Therefore every time the water level drops below 20% these properties – about 3,000 of them – are cut off. When the reservoir refills – usually overnight when demand for water is lower – the supply comes back on when it reaches the 20% mark. This is why the supply has been intermittent for days.
To make water supply robust requires the reservoir to be fuller than 20%. The combination of leaks from burst pipes (increasing flows out of the reservoir) and the Tonbridge water treatment works being broken (decreasing flows in) has meant that the Blackhurst Lane reservoir is not filling up to stop the cuts to supplies to homes. However treatment works at Pembury and Bewl are supplying the reservoir with water and water tankers have been delivering additional supplies.
I was told that there is some positive news in that the Tonbridge works is expected to be repaired and functioning tomorrow, but that there are more burst pipes being discovered as the thaw has taken place.
This is South East Water’s explanation as I have understood it, though I am not an engineer. However, in my view it does not excuse in any way the fact that the system is so lacking in resilience as to have caused misery for so many people.
I raised the issue of Tesco at Pembury being inaccessible to anyone without a car. The Chief Executive agreed that anyone without transport would be able to have it delivered to their door. The number to call to arrange this is 0333 000 2468.
I also emphasised that compensation must be paid to everyone affected, without fuss and without hiding behind any contractual small print.
I will keep up the pressure every day until this is resolved and, once it is, hold to account those responsible for the inadequacy of the resilience of the network here in our area. As I mentioned in an earlier email, I have applied for a debate on the floor of the House of Commons early in the New Year on the subject of ‘The Performance of South East Water’.
I will keep you updated with any information that I receive during the days ahead.
With best wishes, and in hope that this nightmare time will be over soon