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Anger as South East Water delay Meopham leak repair for months, due to bees

South East Water has left a leak unfixed for more than eight weeks, due to concerns over nearby bees.

Meopham man Peter Rogers says thousands of gallons of water has been lost from the leak in Idleigh Court Road, since it was reported by residents in June.

The 74-year-old care home owner says he was frustrated after engineers took three weeks to inspect the leak, but his frustration turned to disbelief when he was told repairs would have to wait due to a nearby bees' nest.

With no further action having been taken since, Mr Rogers said the water company was hypocritical for imposing a hosepipe ban while failing to save water itself – and said blaming bees was "pathetic".

"Over eight weeks ago, we had a leak on the road itself," he said. "The people who live opposite reported it and nothing happened.

"I reported it a week later and nothing happened. A couple of weeks went by and I reported it again because we were losing water pressure. They came out and had a look and they said there was a bees' nest there, so they needed to do a risk assessment.

"We went over and had a look at it and there was about two bees there having a drink. It was pathetic."

Stock image
Stock image

He added: "There's millions of gallons of water running down the road. We've got a huge puddle in the road outside the house and it's running three quarters of a mile down the road.

"It's so frustrating to know we've got a hosepipe ban coming in, and all this water is being wasted. It's gutting."

Andy Beston, regional network manager for South East Water, said the company was aware of the leak in Idleigh Court Road, and confirmed repairs had been delayed due to bees.

He said: "Our technician has visited the site and this was subsequently scheduled for a fix. When our repair team arrived, they discovered a bees' nest. As honeybees are a protected species, we need to have them formally identified as such before we can continue and are awaiting confirmation from a specialist company. If they are confirmed as honeybees, we will not be able to disturb them until they have left the nest.

"We appreciate that leaving such a leak with an impending temporary use ban is frustrating for customers, but we have to work within the parameters required to protect any species such as this."

South East Water later confirmed that experts had since visited the site this afternoon, and found there was no bees' nest, but that bees were visiting the site.

Mr Beston added: “A specialist company attended the site today and confirmed that while the bees at the location of the leak are indeed honeybees, they have not nested there. Provision will be made for the bees to be able to drink a safe distance away instead, and the work will be rescheduled as a priority.

“Risk assessments are carried out as a routine procedure on all work.”

Meanwhile a rising number of leaks have been springing up around the county, with South East Water blaming a 50% increase on ground movement, due to hot dry conditions, which is causing damage to pipe work.

Earlier this week, residents fled their homes in Priory Road, Dartford, when a mains burst flooded the street and caused large sinkhole to appear.

In Tonbridge it's thought thousands of gallons has been lost from a leak which sprung up last Thursday in Drayton Road.

South East Water painted a blue arrow to identify the leak, which remained unfixed for several days. Image: Gary King
South East Water painted a blue arrow to identify the leak, which remained unfixed for several days. Image: Gary King

Gary King, who works nearby, said: "Don't you think it's amazing under the present circumstances that a water main has been leaking in Drayton Road Tonbridge since Thursday morning. Water board came out within a few hours, sprayed a blue arrow pointing to where the water is gushing out and never came back! Thousands of litres of water. The irony is their depot is only five minutes down the road."

South East Water said a technician had been sent out to assess the leak, which is scheduled for repair next week.

Regional network manager Mr Beston added: “Leaks are prioritised and planned in accordingly, and whilst we do not want any leaks running, we have to work with Kent Highways to apply for the necessary permits. This leak is scheduled for repair on August 18.”

Meanwhile in Sittingbourne, Southern Water has come under fire for for failing to fix a High Street leak reported several weeks ago, wasting tens of thousands of litres of water a day.

The complainer, who did not wish to be named, says she reported the issue, close to where she works in Sittingbourne High Street, weeks ago but to no effect.

The leaking water pipe in Sittingbourne
The leaking water pipe in Sittingbourne

Southern Water has been approached for further comment

A statement about leaks on South East Water's website, added: "During this recent period of hot weather we have seen a 50% increase in leaks and bursts across our supply area caused by ground movement due to the lack of rainfall and drying of the soil. We're reacting to and repairing these as quickly as we can, prioritising leaks and bursts according to severity."

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