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Southern Water reveal important step towards rectifying burst pipes affecting Sandwich residents and commuters

Southern Water bosses will meet with Historic England today in an important step towards finding a solution for one half of the burst pipe issues affecting Sandwich.

In an exclusive interview with KentOnline, operational area manager Jean-Paul Collet explained that teams are dealing with two bursts in "problematic areas".

Southern Water's operational area manager Jean-Paul Collet in Sandwich
Southern Water's operational area manager Jean-Paul Collet in Sandwich

They are both on the same 10k long 400mm diameter sewerage pipe, which serves the entire 7,396 population of Sandwich.

The complexities, he states, lie with the positioning of both faults; one directly underneath the River Stour and the other below more than 5 metres of built-up roadway on the A256 by Discovery Park.

The only way to ensure residents can continue to still use their toilet facilities is to shut the A-road and have a 24-hour lorry tankering system transporting the waste by road.

Aware of the ongoing delays for commuters and disruption to Sandwich households, he says the firm is working "as quickly and as hard as possible" to make repairs.

Mr Collet said: "It's unfortunate that the issues are both in problematic areas.

The A256 southbound carriageways have been shut since mid December Picture: Paul Amos
The A256 southbound carriageways have been shut since mid December Picture: Paul Amos

"We understand the time frame is an important question for our customers.

"Our priority is to negate the need for tankering within Sandwich, get the repairs done as quickly as we possibly can while ensuring our customers can still use their facilities.

"We'd like to take this time to apologise to everybody whose been disrupted by the works we're doing.

"We have options that are being considered, our designers, service partners, outside contractors are all working alongside us and as quickly and as hard as possible to implement those options alongside the permissions that we need from various other stakeholders as well."

The cause of the bursts are not yet known but pipework will be taken away and inspected at a later date.

Drivers heading southbound are experiencing delays by Discovery Park. Picture: Paul Amos
Drivers heading southbound are experiencing delays by Discovery Park. Picture: Paul Amos

A256 burst pipe

Southern Water took swift action to close the southbound carriageways of the A256, by Discovery Park, when a pipe burst on December 13.

It was the right decision, Mr Collet said, after Kent County Council - which is the authority responsible for the road - uncovered a void during work to remove the tarmac, on Tuesday.

He explained that the pipeline is situated about 3 metres under ground level, below a 5 metre section of built-up roadway.

The road is supported by a geotech structure, described in appearance like honeycomb, which is holding the embankment beside it.

Sewage is being transported by lorries from Bulwark pumping station in Sandwich to Richborough treatment works
Sewage is being transported by lorries from Bulwark pumping station in Sandwich to Richborough treatment works

Because of its complex structure, an in-depth survey was required and is ongoing.

Mr Collet said: "This weekend we were finally able to access the pipe deep under the carriageway, cut away a small section and gain access inside.

"As this length of pipeline is usually sealed it requires the high pressure generated by the pumping station near The Bulwark to drive water through it, however, to prevent leaking we disconnected it from the pumping station back in December when the burst first occurred and therefore the first thing we need to deal with is residual water sitting in the pipe.

"After rush hour this morning (Monday) we began using tankers to empty the pipe and this is currently ongoing, as soon as it is cleared we can jet wash the inside of the pipe and begin the crucial imaging that will allow us to get a full picture of the damage.

"We hope that imaging will be complete by Tuesday lunchtime and we will then have a clearer idea of options available to us to rectify the issue and potential timelines."

17 lorries are being used for the 24-hour operation in Sandwich
17 lorries are being used for the 24-hour operation in Sandwich

River Stour burst pipe

A second burst was uncovered under the River Stour about three weeks later on January 8.

Southern Water faced little option but to implement a manual system with lorries transporting wastewater from The Bulwark Pumping Station on the Quay to the main treatment works at Richborough, known at Wetherlees, 24 hours a day.

In dry weather conditions, three lorries are working together to load up to 50 to 60 litres of waste a second, with tanker support being provided by Thames Water.

"This is an indication of the level of emergency we're dealing with," Mr Collet said.

A section of the Quay car park in Sandwich is being used by Southern Water as the firm works towards making repairs
A section of the Quay car park in Sandwich is being used by Southern Water as the firm works towards making repairs

He continued: "This system is more complex than the A256 in that the river is in the way. We have to work closely with a number of authorities including Historic England."

Due to the pipework's proximity to Sandwich's old town walls which are listed as a Scheduled Monument, Historic England must be consulted.

In a meeting today, Southern Water will present both a short and long term solution.

Mr Collet said: "Our short term solution is to lay a pipe on the bed of the river itself that will give us the ability to stand the lorry operation down while we progress with our long term solution, which is to install a new pipe under the river bed."

The new pipe will be approx 100 metres long and will reconnect with the old line.

A community bus has been stationed at The Quay and residents are encouraged to go along for a chat
A community bus has been stationed at The Quay and residents are encouraged to go along for a chat

If permitted, Southern Water will simultaneously renew the pipe connecting to Deal's Golf Road pumping station to negate the need for future disruption.

While works continue, Sharon Holdstock from Southern Water is on hand to answer people questions from a community bus stationed at the Quayside.

Mr Collet said: "We know this is massive for Sandwich, it's not only the Open, it's Sandwich in Bloom, it's Sandwich Salutes the 40s event, that they are asking about.

"We're talking to locals, they're sharing these dates, we're making notes of these and working with them to see what we can do.

"We know we've caused destruction and damage and we will absolutely put it right.

"We want local residents to come and talk to us."

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