DWI commends response to Mythe waterworks flooding

A Drinking Water Inspectorate investigation into the flooding of Severn Trent’s Mythe water treatment works in July last year commended the firm on much of its emergency response. The findings were released in an assessment letter to the firm on 14 March.

The flooding of the Tewkesbury works by the rising waters of the rivers Avon and Severn left 160,000 households without water supplies for over two weeks (ENDS Report 391, pp 32-35 ). However, the DWI found the firm’s response to the emergency commendable in many respects. It also found little evidence that it had breached the law by supplying water unfit for human consumption, making a prosecution unlikely.

Severn Trent’s orderly shut-down of the works once serious flooding was inevitable and its methodical restoration of the works and supply system after the event were praised. There was some criticism of the strategic coordination group’s insistence on issuing a public health leaflet to all households before supplies were restored. The DWI found this delayed reconnection and was not needed in view of precautions taken to ensure the quality of reinstated supplies.

However, there were many recommendations that will be of interest to water firms charged with protecting against future risks. The DWI recommended that firms ensure all possible alternative supply arrangements be documented in advance, all works have emergency power provision and firms ensure that all treatment works are accessible by large tankers to facilitate the filling of emergency bowsers.

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