Town still counting cost of flash floods

POOR drainage in Dunmow is being blamed for the flash floods that caused so much chaos in the town on Thursday – but the water company is unlikely to upgrade the system. Businesses were left picking up the bill after their shops were flooded when the sewe

POOR drainage in Dunmow is being blamed for the flash floods that caused so much chaos in the town on Thursday - but the water company is unlikely to upgrade the system.

Businesses were left picking up the bill after their shops were flooded when the sewer main under North Street ruptured.

Anglian Water, which is responsible for the drains, has put in an application with the highways authority, Essex County Council, to close the road for 21 days while essential work is completed. This will include placing a camera down the sewer and road repairs.

The council was unable to reveal when the repair work on North Street was likely to be completed or how much it would cost.

Amanda Walden, from Brookfield Recruitment based on White Street, said: "It's impossible to say how much money this has cost us, but with our server being affected and all the damage to the office, it must run into the thousands.

"The council has to look at the drainage system as it's clearly not good enough considering the number of people who now live in Dunmow."

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An Anglian Water spokesman said: "Storm drains could not cope with the level of torrential rain that fell in the Dunmow area.

"Because the age and condition of the pipes were not to blame for the flooding, it is unlikely that we will respond by improving the system."

The spokesman blamed the gas supplier, National Grid, formerly Transco, for causing the damage when it laid a new gas main along North Street four years ago.

The National Grid's spokesman Graham McQuarrie said: "To avoid digging trenches and disrupting the use of the roads, the main was drilled underground and while this was being done the sewer was damaged.

"The damage was only discovered last week when the cause of the flooding was being investigated. We apologise for the inconvenience and are working closely with Anglian Water to resolve the problem."

An Uttlesford District Council spokesman said: "The drains that flooded are managed by the housing association, although this will be transferred to Essex County Council at some point in the future.

"The housing association has sent a surveyor to assess the damage. As he has not yet presented his findings to the association, they currently have no cost estimate."

Meanwhile, Essex County Council, which is responsible for the roads in Dunmow, has said that it will repair the damage in North Street as soon as possible.

Torrential rain fell on the town for much of the afternoon, overwhelming drains, cracking roads and spreading sewage from a burst main.

Dunmow Fire Station Officer Keith Crow, said: "We had 12 calls from addresses in the town on Thursday related to the downpour.

"Some we couldn't do much about. There was far too much water for the drains to cope with, but once the rain had stopped and the drains started to catch up, the water began to go down."

The water weakened North Street to the point of collapse. When a double-decker bus tried to travel up the road, one of its wheels went straight through the tarmac.

Mr Crow said: "North Street was the worst hit. We tried to pump water and sewage from behind some of the houses, which had gathered and formed a pool about two feet deep.

"The hole where the double-decker went through grew to about six feet wide and the road is likely to be closed for around three weeks while repairs are carried out."

The main sewage pipe under the street burst under the pressure created from the downpour. Sewage and water then got between two layers of tarmac and forced the road's surface to buckle.

Rosemary Lane resident Donna Kearn found her garden was turning into a lake as the rainwater gathered behind her house.

She said: "We had to call the fire brigade out. It happened so fast. In 10 minutes the situation went from being okay to being seriously worrying. I looked out of the back door and couldn't see the grass at all - it was just a lake!

"We had to open up the passageway that runs beside our house to divert the water and just sweep as fast as we could."

The Co-op store on White Street was forced to close because of the rainfall. It was shut between 3.15pm and 6.15pm.

Tesco on Stortford Road also had to close, due to a loss of power from the downpour. It closed at 4.30pm and reopened at 6pm.

Brookfield Recruitment, based in a basement on White Street, was severely hit by the flooding. It was the third time their office hadbeen flooded.

Office manager Amanda Walden said: "We've suffered tremendously, we were completely flooded out.

"Water came up through the drains and the toilet, which wasn't very nice.

"When I went to try and pick my daughter up from school I couldn't get out of the front door - the road had turned into a river!

"We had to get Rainbow International, which specialises in disaster restoration, to help with the clean-up operation. Their equipment has been drying the place out and hopefully we'll be back to normal before too long.