Thames Water says its drainage systems did not fail during flash floods

Peel Place in Clayhall shortly after Sunday's flood

Peel Place in Clayhall shortly after the July 25 flooding - Credit: Jonathan King

Thames Water has denied claims from Redbridge Council leader Jas Athwal that its drainage systems "were not able to cope" during recent flash floods.

Cllr Athwal told a cabinet meeting last Tuesday (September 14) that council-managed gullies worked during recent flash floods and called on the water company to improve its drains.

He insisted that “Thames Water’s systems were simply not able to cope”, warning that residents will “really suffer” unless something is done. 

However, the water company denied that its network failed and said the floods were a "harsh reminder" of the effects of climate change.

Cllr Athwal said it was “tragic” to see residents “standing waist high in water” after a month's worth of rain fell in a few hours on July 25. 

The floods caused a power cut at the nearby Whipps Cross Hospital, which was forced to send ambulances elsewhere, and severely damaged homes in Clayhall.

In the aftermath of the flooding, the council leader described Thames Water’s response as “woefully inadequate”

Thames Water said it had “not found any evidence of a failure on our network” and that the floods were a “harsh reminder of the devastating impact that climate change can and will have in the future”

A Thames Water spokesperson said: “We sympathise with everyone affected by the flooding and have had a dedicated team supporting our customers, including carrying out clean-ups inside and outside of homes. 

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“The intensity and volume of rainfall tested our and other risk management authorities’ drainage assets beyond the limits they were designed to cope with.  

“Severe storms look set to become the new normal across the UK, and ensuring our network can operate sufficiently to prevent or mitigate flash flooding needs to now become the collective new focus for all organisations involved in the UK’s water network and drainage systems. 

A surface area flood risk map showing high risk zones in dark blue

A surface area flood risk map showing high risk zones in dark blue - Credit: Environment Agency / Ordance Survey

“We want to fully understand what lessons we can learn and an independent investigation will take place over the coming months.” 

The council are also investigating the causes of the floods and what can be done to prevent future disasters. 

A draft report prepared for cabinet explored the possibility of a new drainage system that would use features like rain gardens and water butts to slow the flow of water into the drains.