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Ilfracombe sewage nightmare on Channel 4 Dispatches tonight

12:32 03 February 2014

Channel 4 Dispatches reporter Antony Barnett will lift the lid tonight (Monday) on Ilfracombe

Channel 4 Dispatches reporter Antony Barnett will lift the lid tonight (Monday) on Ilfracombe's sewage flood misery.


Hard-hitting show will tell of residents battling floods of sewage on a tide of misery tonight (Monday) on Channel 4 at 8pm.

AS high tides batter Ilfracombe, the town is set to feature in a very timely episode of Channel 4 Dispatches tonight (Monday).

Floods: Your Money Down the Drain features several Ilfracombe residents faced with raw sewage pouring from their drains following heavy rain or high tides.

The show airs at 8pm on Channel 4 and with a weekend of seas breaching defences around Ilfracombe, could not be timelier, although as yet no incidents of sewage flooding have been reported, according to South West Water.

Tonight, presenter Antony Barnett speaks to resident Emma Hiles-McKellar as well as fishing shop owners John and Janet Fennell plus landlord Richard Wheeler.

Emma, joined by daughter Chloe, tells the cameras how more than five or 10 minutes of heavy rain was enough to see raw sewage coming up through the drain at her home and then through the kitchen sink. She says it has flooded her kitchen five times.

“It stinks, absolutely stinks,” she says.

“I think they need to sort it out really and think about what they put families like myself through.”

The show reports how South West Water has offered to drop the sewage charges from Emma’s bill, but she claims the problem still hasn’t been fixed or compensation offered.

John and Janet Fennell at Variety Sports fishing tackle shop in Broad Street told the show they had been running the shop for more than 20 years, and suffered sewer flooding for the past 12:

“When the sewer fills up it backs up our sewer, comes up a small drain we have in the back yard there, to a level where it goes into an air brick and flows underneath the floors of the shop and the stock room,” said John.

“Well we are in our sixties now, we’ve worked the business hard for over 20 years and we’d like to retire and obviously sell the business as a going concern.”

Royal Britannia landlord Richard Wheeler told Dispatches raw sewage had also flooded the pub patio four times in the past year.

The show claims following a Freedom of Information request to the Environment Agency, South West Water is at number five on the list of the ‘worst sewage polluters’ with 30 incidents, but says the company made £130million last year.

In a statement to the North Devon Gazette, South West Water said: “We recognise sewer flooding can be extremely distressing when it happens and take the problem very seriously. That’s why we are spending £42million in the five years to 2015 on improving the region’s sewerage pipes to counter the effects of the much wetter winters being experienced.

“We regret the internal sewer flooding Mr Fennell has experienced, the last occasion being last September. Ilfracombe is low-lying and when it rains very hard this can cause the sewers to fill up with storm water, leading to flooding problems.

“We have taken several actions to try to cure the problem for Mr Fennell, including: Upgrading the storm tank at Cheyne Pumping Station, regularly maintaining the valve for the sea outfall, installing pumped non-return valves to protect property.

“In addition, Mr Fennell has been compensated under the terms of our Guaranteed Standards of Service.

“So far the actions taken seem to have worked as, despite the terrible weather this year, we have had no reports of Mr Fennell’s property flooding. However, we remain ever-vigilant and will continue to do what is required.”

* See Floods: Your Money Down the Drain on Channel 4 tonight (Monday) at 8pm.


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