How Authorities Aim to Manage the Flooding in Thornham and Brancaster

How Authorities Aim to Manage the Flooding in Thornham and Brancaster
Flooding in Burnham Market, photo credit Town & Around

A meeting was held on Monday 25th March in Thornham Village Hall to address concerns around flooding in the area.

The meeting, hosted by Thornham Parish Council and Deputy Leader of Norfolk County Council Andrew Jamieson, was to explain the measures that have been implemented since 2021 and what is continuing to be done to address the flooding and sewerage issues in the locality. North Norfolk has been subject to numerous flooding events in recent years, with 863 spills in 2023 causing a multitude of concerns for both public health and for the environment. The meeting was the second of its kind, with the first being held at Burnham Market, addressing the areas surrounding the River Burn. Approximately 90 individuals attended and had the opportunity to voice some of their concerns and hear from representatives from multiple bodies involved in the management of the floods.

The meeting was panelled by Stephanie Mocatta, Chair of Thornham Parish Council, Jade Kite, Flood and Water Management Officer from the Borough Council of Kings Lynn and West Norfolk, Rory Sanderson from the Environment Agency, Mark Ogden, Norfolk County Council’s Flood and Water Manager, Shane Rose and Victoria Crerland, both from Anglian Water, Water Recycling and Network Manager and Regional Network Manager respectively, Jason Morse, Highways Area Manager from Norfolk County Council and Tom Hunter, Area Manager from the Internal Drainage Board.

Mr Jamieson prefaced the discussion by explaining that The Norfolk Strategic Flood Alliance (NSFA) was set up in 2021 by Norfolk County Council after the significant flooding events in December 2020. The NSFA, chaired by Henry Cator, lead the local flood authority with managing the flooding, however, Jamieson mentioned, 36 bodies are in fact responsible for the inland flooding that occurs in Norfolk.

Victoria Crerland opened the discussion with reassurance that Anglian Water have been undertaking “timely testing and investigating” of the sewerage network, with a new small team, the Asset Performance Team, created to focus on doing so. Their aim is to build an infiltration reduction plan. This involves performing a CCTV survey in the system, to look for points of infiltration, then applying for funding for sewer lining or sewer replacement. However, this team are unable to investigate any pipes that do not belong to Anglian Water, even if they transfer sewage to Anglian Water. An additional difficulty is that in order to perform the CCTV surveys, the water table needs to be low enough to see infiltration points. Where manholes are breaching into water courses, this is classed as a ‘pollution event’ and is reported. In these cases, ammonia levels are tested every day by Anglian Water. In 2022, there were 196 spills in North West Norfolk rivers managed by Anglian Water. In 2023, this figure rose a huge 340% to 863 spills.

AW spills
Spills managed by Anglian Water in 2022 and 2023, internet

Ms Crerland likened the impact of the “unprecedented rainfall this winter” to ‘taking the plug out of the bath but still running the tap’, as the sewage network is currently overcome by surface water. The network is only designed to take foul waste, so as a result, the sewers are completely submerged and therefore breaching. Ms Crerland explained that Anglian Water are operating an extended level of service currently; the stations are pumping 24/7 and Anglian Water are tankering, but this is only maintaining the water levels, not yet lowering them. In response to a question regarding the capacity of the network, Ms Crerland also explained how increasing the capacity to fit the wet weather would render the system inoperative in the drier summer season, as there would not be enough water passing through it. She emphasised the importance of removing the surface water, which should be easier in the coming drier seasons.

WEB Overwhelmed Burnham Deepdale pumping station being serviced by tanker   March 2021 ©T&A An overwhelmed Burnham Deepdale pumping station being serviced by a tanker (March 2021), photo credit Town & Around

Rory Sanderson from the Environmental Agency mentioned an alternative way to reduce water levels. He explained how a regulatory position statement from the Environment Agency could give Anglian Water permission to overpump wastewater into rivers. This occurred in 2021 into the River Burn following the significant flooding. Despite the wastewater being very diluted and filtered, this does still pose difficult questions for the effect on the environment, particularly with Norfolk’s unique and precious chalk streams. Chalk streams form a rare habitat, supporting a unique ecology of fish, plants and invertebrates. Ironically, they are known for their purity. With 85% of the world’s chalk streams in Southern and Eastern England, the decision to overpump wastewater into these waterways is one that requires great consideration. Another suggestion to address the issue of too much surface water is to issue a permit to capture winter water and store it in reservoirs to be used for agricultural purposes and water management in the summer.

Jade from the Borough Council shared that families who are having difficulties with their facilities due to flooding-related issues can contact the Council for welfare assistance. The Council will assess each case and offer assistance accordingly. She also noted that residents can use the facilities at Alive Leisure Hunstanton or Kings Lynn if needed. You can contact the Borough Council on 01553 616 200.

WEB sewage debris anglain water 2017 Credit Environment Agency Sewage debris, photo credit Environment Agency

With one resident from Brancaster sharing that she has had sewage running into her house for three months due to an overflowing manhole, the situation is both urgent and of utmost importance. Town & Around will continue to follow updates.

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