Published: 05:00, 06 May 2022
| Updated: 14:54, 06 May 2022
Southern Water is refusing to pay out more than £10,000 to an ice cream parlour flooded with sewage – as it says the flood was not its fault.
Scoops in Central Parade, Herne Bay, was forced to shut for two days last summer after its basement was submerged by mirky, foul-smelling liquid that flowed in from its toilet drains.
Staff worked for several hours to clear the stockroom, as they discovered many of the business’s ice creams and freezers had been sullied by the water.
Despite vowing in the days following the incident to ensure those “affected will not be left out of pocket”, Southern Water now says it will not foot the clean-up bill.
Bosses from Scoops say the decision has dealt the firm “a massive blow”.
Owner Tom Cain recalled: “The water stunk, was up to my waist and had excrement in it.
“There were floating tubs of ice cream, floating freezers and equipment – it was unbelievable. I’d never seen anything like that before.
“All the stock and equipment in the basement was all chucked away.
“I was shocked and upset because we work so hard for the business.”
A number of homes and businesses were impacted by the flooding last August.
At the time, couple Tony King and Frances Spanner told KentOnline their basement flat next door to Scoops had been submerged with water from their toilet, plugholes and nearby drains.
Southern Water says it “supported a small number of household customers who did not have insurance” with the clean-up.
But Jenny Maloney, who is a member of Scoops’ management team, believes it is unfair others received help, while the café remains thousands of pounds out of pocket.
“We would have liked them to have stood by their word,” Ms Maloney added.
“It makes us a bit sadder the fact they were saying they would treat everybody the same.
“I know a couple of other businesses in the town have the same issue.
“We’re a strong business, but that’s a massive blow to wake up one morning and find just over £10,000 of damage done.
"There were floating tubs of ice cream, floating freezers and equipment - it was unbelievable..."
“We have insurance, but it doesn’t cover this because of the area’s history of flooding.”
An investigation carried out by insurers QBE has absolved Southern Water of any blame.
It says it has not “identified any evidence of negligence or breach of duty” as the “once-every-150-years” storm that preceded the flooding “was a truly exceptional event” that overwhelmed the sewer network.
And in a letter to Scoops bosses, QBE noted its decision means the business would be unable to claim damages from Southern Water.
A spokesman for Southern Water added: “We are sorry people in Herne Bay had such a distressing experience last summer and completely understand how upsetting flooding can be.
“An independent investigation into the extreme weather event and resulting flooding has now been completed. It concluded the flooding was the result of an extreme storm and that Southern Water was not at fault.
“Our insurers will only pay out when we are found to be legally liable. In cases like this, losses must be claimed via a claimant’s insurance.
“Most of our customers directly affected by the incident contacted their own insurers and were supported by them.
“However, while the independent investigation into liability was undertaken, we supported a small number of household customers who did not have insurance, and needed help to return to their homes.”
The spokesman also says the firm is “undertaking additional works at a local wastewater pumping station” to make sure it is “better prepared when significant rainfall impacts the area”.