Father takes flooding complaint to the top
A man has written directly to the boss of Severn Trent Water in his battle with the utilities company after flood water containing raw sewage poured into his back garden to a depth of 5ft.
James Taylor and his sons fought for more than a day to keep the water from getting into their home on Lyneside Road in Knypersley.
Seven months later, the garden of their six-bedroomed detached home might have dried up but the father of four said the family was unable to use it during the lockdown because they are now living next door “to what amounts to an open sewer”.
He said the position they have been left in is “totally unacceptable”, having spent £6,000 on clean-up and repair bills including the cost of having 20 tonnes of soil removed.
The neighbouring land is the location for sewerage pipes running from homes on Newpool Road where residents have complained about blocked drains, which he said Severn Trent had already been made aware of.
Repair work has been carried out to the pipes on the land but Mr Taylor said a 4ft deep pit remains, which fills with stagnant water and has only recently been fenced properly after he complained to the Environment Agency.
This week, the 48-year-old, who is diabetic and suffers with kidney failure, has written to Severn Trent's chief executive Liv Garfield to bring his concerns to her attention.
He has also threatened to go to the small claims court if he does not receive a response within 14 days.
In his letter, Mr Taylor said: “I am writing to you out of complete desperation for the position that we have been left in following works completed by your company and Amey Contractors.”
The business development manager for van company Maxi-Low describes how, during persistent rain in October, the family awoke to find their rear garden totally flooded and underwater, with the levels “rapidly rising”. He said the water was “pouring in” from the broken sewerage pipes on the land next door.
Mr Taylor immediately called the emergency number for Severn Trent and was advised that it was busy but staff had logged it as an emergency and would call back. He also reported the issue via the company website as an emergency.
Mr Taylor's email said: “As the rain continued to fall, water continued to pour in through my newly-erected fence panels, separating my garden from the land next door and at one stage was around 5ft up the panel and over the two barge-boards at the base.
“At this point, we decided that we had to do something to try to protect our property (and to try to reduce any potential claims against Severn Trent). Both myself and my teenage sons then spent the next six hours battling the weather and water in our garden to build some flood defence around our rear back doorway to stop water penetrating in, including using bags of sand.”
Mr Taylor told Ms Garfield that by 8pm they still had not heard from the emergency team at Severn Trent so called them again and was told that they were “really sorry but the team that had been assigned to us had finished for the day and it would be the next day before someone could come out”.
Mr Taylor added: “This left myself and my sons battling for the remainder of the evening, walking around our garden with raw sewage flowing, trying to protect our property. Sometime around 12.30am we gave up, and after shoring up the back of our property as best we could, we went to bed.
“The following morning, the rear garden was still under water with excrement and sewage up our fence panels, with the water showing no sign of abating. We called Severn Trent again and got put through to its contractors Amey who once again said sorry, they were really busy and would try to get someone out to us. The rain continued most of that day and we continued to shore up the makeshift barrier around the rear of our property and back door with the wood and sand.”
Mr Taylor told Severn Trent's boss that when the rain finally stopped and the floodwater subsided, the rear of his property “was littered with what I can only describe as raw sewage and human excrement”.
He continued: “We spent the next week trying to clean up as best we could but all of our grass seed we had laid six weeks previously had been washed away, leaving the flat ground area looking decimated.
“We instructed our builder to provide a quote for the tidy up and replacement of the fence panels that had been damaged, the re-siting of the concrete posts that have had all of the soil around washed away by the flood water and the clean up and the removal of the soil.
“Seven days later, we finally had a member of Severn Trent staff turn up to look at the property and agreed the state we had been left in was disgraceful. He also took photos.
“We had to arrange to have a large amount of contaminated topsoil removed and taken away by our builder and for the ground to be made level again.”
His email added that the neighbouring land was still leaking and that it took Severn Trent a further eight weeks to get onto the land to begin to repair the broken pipes, during which time he said more water “poured through our fence once again”.
He said: “Due to this, we took the decision to have a raised walkway built around the back door and rear wall of our property with a soak away built into it to protect our property against further flooding while Severn Trent decided what to do about next door.
“This still has not been resolved, we are still left with flooded ground to the left of our property, have not been able to use our rear garden due to the smell coming from the stagnant water next door, not to mention the flies that this has attracted.”
Mr Taylor added: “We have been told all we can do is submit an insurance claim which we will be doing today but I find the position we have been put in totally unacceptable and wanted to bring this to your attention.
“Also, while this was all going on, I was being chased by your company to pay my water and drainage bills and being threatened that if I didn't pay, it could affect my credit rating!”
Mr Taylor is married to Kate and the couple have four boys - two aged 17, one aged 11 and a four-year-old.
The Chronicle has asked Severn Trent to comment but it had not responded by deadline yesterday (Wednesday).