sewage under crescent house

Last week there was a major overflow of sewage in the basement of the Shakespeare pub and the road and garages in the basement carpark as a result of of both sump pumps not working. This resulted in emergency action over the bank holiday weekend to clear the 33,000 gallons of sewage.

Earlier today (Friday 31 May) residents will have received a letter from the City apologising for disturbance over the weekend:

Many of you may be aware of an incident that occurred in the Golden Lane Estate car park over the long bank holiday weekend. Drains in the car park became blocked and overflowed as pumps that usually would be pumping sewage away were not working. 

On Sunday evening a drainage specialist and tanker attended to remove the blocked sewage. Unfortunately, these pumps were noisy and may have caused a disturbance to residents late into Sunday night and early Monday morning. We apologise for this disturbance and thank all residents for their understanding during this emergency.

extract from letter sent to residents from Pam Wharfe, Interim Assistant Director of Housing

The letter goes on to say that there is ‘evidence that wet wipes have been a main cause of the problem’. GLERA are concerned that residents are being held responsible when lack of ongoing maintenance is clearly the key problem.

GLERA response

Emailed Friday 30 May:

Dear Pam,

RE Golden Lane Estate garage area sewerage overflow

As you are aware there was a major overflow of sewerage in the basement of the Shakespeare pub and the road and garages in the basement carpark. Our understanding is that this was reported on Tuesday 21st May but that it was only after our councillors called Environmental Health on Saturday 25th that this was taken seriously and action taken which resulted in the the sewage being pumped out on the evening of Sunday 26th and continued through the night until 7am the following morning.

Can you explain why it took from Tuesday until Sunday to action this work, as raw sewage is a major health hazard and the garage area is often accessed by children?

This has happened before with garages being flooded with flood from rainwater being a regular occurrence and we would like assurances that the pumps are regularly checked and serviced including when they were last serviced. We understand that the pumps have an alarm and ask if this is operating and if it is, why was it ignored?

In future when sewerage, or any flooding is reported we request that action is taken urgently. We would also seek reassurance that residents are not charged through their service charges for the action taken to clear up the overflow or repair the pumps as this was down to a lack of maintenance on the City’s part which our service charges should already cover.

We are concerned that the letter issued to residents appears to blame the flooding on residents’ actions rather than the failure of the pumps and would be grateful if you could issue a clarification.

We are also concerned whether the garage leasees have been contacted to check their garages for damage. Can you advise if they have been contacted and how any garages flooded will be decontaminated? What compensation is being offered to residents for any goods that have been damaged?

I attach for your information the time-line we have established.
Yours sincerely,

Tim Godsmark
Chair Golden Lane Estate Residents’ Association

timeline

TUESDAY 21 MAY
Flooding in basement of Shakespeare pub was reported by Park Guard directly to Wates and the Estate Office. One of our Councillors also reported the flooding along with photos to the Estate Office and Greg Nott (Estate Services Manager). The drain near recycling area was bubbling.

WEDNESDAY 23 MAY
Further flooding including along Hatfield lawn (possibly exacerbated by heavy rain) was reported by the same Councillor to Nadine Roberts (Interim Head of Repairs). It was confirmed that an order had been raised for the blocked drains and should be completed within 24 hrs.

SATURDAY 25 MAY
Morning: Cripplegate Councillors conducted their monthly walkabout and went to check on the flooding that had been reported earlier in the week. It was very clear from the stench that there was a sewage issue.
Councillors called the CoL emergency repairs number as advertised on the Estate Office window but the call was rerouted to Guildhall who weren’t able to help.
Councillors also called Environmental Health who attended within two hours. Environmental Health were able to confirm that the flooding was caused by raw sewage, but that the Estate Office had reported the flooding to repairs team as non-urgent as it was considered a rain issue.
Afternoon: Environmental Health contacted Thames Water who came out in the afternoon and located the actual source.
Thames Water were able to confirm the problem was a broken pump. Park Guard had to  break into the pump cupboard for access to confirm – Wates were then contacted direct to affect a repair.
Evening: However, because we are a private estate Thames Water confirmed they could not do anything further –  it was a Property Services issue.

SUNDAY 26 MAY
Morning: One of our Councillors contacted Judith Finlay (Exec Director of Community and Children’s Services), Cllr Steve Goodman (Chair Housing Management and Almshouses Sub) and Cllr Helen Fentimen (Chair of Community and Children’s Services Committee). No one had been able to make contact with the Estate Office.
Pam Wharfe, interim Assistant Director Housing, Community and Children’s Services, arrived on site around lunch time and organised Pimlico Plumbers to undertake emergency work.
Evening: an industrial scale drainage tanker arrived at 6 pm but was too big to access; a smaller tanker arrived around 10.30 pm, work started at 10.45 pm and went on through most of the night, until at least 4 am. Tankers left at 7 next morning. They had pumped out 33,000 gallons of sewage.

Communications
Councillors asked that the EO contact residents to explain the noise which was heard across the estate during the night, keeping people awake, and also contact garage leasees so they could check that no sewage flooded into their respective garages.

underlying issues

GLERA understand that the two sump pumps located beneath Crescent House had both failed due to:

  • lack of maintenance
  • blown fuses on the pumps’ power-board
  • wet wipes and similar detritus

It was also ascertained that there was no recorded responses to the frequent sounding of the pumps’ integrated high-level water alarm (next to porters’ cabin), there were no emergency weekend keys for the porters’ cabin so it had to be forced open, plus no visual plan of the two relevant manholes (street level on Goswell Road and by the porters’ cabin).

Every block has highly problematic soil-stacks with lime-scaling causing back-surges. The Corporation must implement a full maintainence programme with weekly checks and full annual testing.

updates

SUNDAY 2 JUNE
More back surges with waste water coming back up through drains. It was reported to the repairs line and Judith Finlay (Exec Director of Community and Children’s Services).

MONDAY 3 JUNE
Housing Management and Almshouse Sub-Committee: Resident Councillor Ceri Wilkins highlights the ongoing issues of sewage leaks under Crescent House – that this is clearly a maintenance issue and communications with residents were slow and wrongly imply that residents were responsible. Read more…

Posted approx 5 pm on the Golden Lane Estate – City of London facebook page

press

WEDNESDAY 5 JUNE
My London News | Ben Lynch, Local Democracy Reporter
Grade II listed London estate and pub flooded by sewage and malfunctiing pumps

SUNDAY 9 JUNE
BBC London News | Ben Lynch, Local Democracy Reporter

Sewage has flooded parts of the Grade-II listed Golden Lane Estate twice in the past few weeks.

The Golden Lane Estate Residents’ Association is calling for answers from the City of London Corporation (CLC), given that “raw sewage is a major health hazard”.

Several staff members at The Shakespeare pub fell ill around the time the flooding first happened, according to a councillor, although this has not been definitively linked to the sewage.

The CLC apologised to residents and said contractors “had been on site to rectify the issue and clear the blockage”.

The issue was first raised with the CLC, the site’s freeholder, on 21 May.

In a housing management and almshouses sub-committee meeting on 3 June, councillor Ceri Wilkins, who lives on the estate, asked why it took her intervention before anything was done.

She said a letter distributed by the CLC on 31 May appeared to blame the issue on residents, claiming the flooding was due to the presence of wet wipes.

The blocking of the drains for a second time last weekend showed that the issue was actually one of inadequate maintenance, Ms Wilkins said.

She said: “I just want to ask, basically, what has been done, what is going to be done, and how we can ensure that actually the correct maintenance is done to our estate?

“We have a lot of young people who play on our estate. They have no idea that that can be a huge danger to them.”

A CLC spokesperson said: “Two incidents occurred in the Golden Lane Estate car park where drains became blocked and overflowed.

“This was due to pumps which would usually be pumping sewage away from the site malfunctioning.

“Contractors have been on site to rectify the issue and clear the blockage. They will also carry out a deep clean to the pub cellars.”

Ben Lynch, BBC News London

MONDAY 10 JUNE
Evening Standard | Ben Lynch, Local Democracy Reporter
Sewage floods estate in the City of London