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Tunbridge Wells residents demand answers as they face Christmas weekend without water

Thousands of tired and exhausted residents are demanding answers after being left for a week without running water.

People across Tunbridge Wells have suffered with little to no water since Thursday after the cold snap hit the county, freezing and bursting essential pipes.

It has left many in a desperate state ahead of the Christmas weekend including pensioners unable to wash or clean for days and families forced to melt snow to be able to flush their toilet.

Residents and the town's MP continue to seek answers as to why they have been left high and dry for almost a week.

Michael Nicholls, of Sherwood Road, has been left frustrated at the lack of communication from the water company.

"You don't have a lot of conversation with South East Water there's nothing," he said.

"We registered with them so we could have water delivered but so far we haven't had a drop of water delivered.

Michael Nicholls is frustrated with the situation
Michael Nicholls is frustrated with the situation

"It's terrible and they are running out there is a queue of people at Crowborough wanting water but they're out and they haven't got any water.

"It's been on and off for at least seven days."

The 79 year-old has been unable to wash and says the availability of water is down to "pot luck".

"It's a nuisance because when you get up in the morning you can't have a wash or get in the shower because there is no water," he explained.

"During the night there's no water, during the day there's no water, but there is nobody to tell you when the water is coming on or when its going off so it's luck - you have to keep trying the tap."

Water station at Tesco in Pembury Road, Tunbridge Wells
Water station at Tesco in Pembury Road, Tunbridge Wells

Teacher Amy Fenton, of Faraday Lodge, shared Mr Nicholl's frustrations.

"I think they're not being honest as to why we're not having water because it seems strange it's on in the morning but off again later," she said.

"No one is getting any answers and no one is getting through to customer service so just a bit exhausted especially with Christmas it just feels like another disaster for the year.

"I just want it to be fixed really and know when it will be fixed and what the actual problem is.

"We can't flush toilets, can't have a shower, can't drink water, cook or clean. I have been having showers at the gym and people have been offering to fill up bottles.

Amy Fenton feels there needs to be better communication from South East Water
Amy Fenton feels there needs to be better communication from South East Water

"I don't mind a couple of days of obstruction. I understand there will be leaks and things but it just feels like something else is going on."

Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark has been providing daily updates and keeping in touch with South East Water's chief executive David Hinton.

He has demanded residents and businesses be compensated for their woes and has slammed the company as not being trustworthy to "get the basics right" amid "no end in sight".

The Tory MP has also asked the government to intervene and has spoken to Roger Gough, leader of Kent County Council, to ask that their experience of emergency responses be made available.

"Neither should be necessary," he said." In my view, a company providing an essential service – and there is none so essential as providing running water to people – should have well-designed and well-rehearsed plans for when things go wrong, including leadership, operations and communications.

"South East Water has shown itself to be deficient in all of these."

Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark has called for people to be compensated due to ongoing water problems. Picture: Greg Clark
Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark has called for people to be compensated due to ongoing water problems. Picture: Greg Clark

It is understood the reservoir at Blackhurst Lane is too low to supply all households adequately.

The Tonbridge Water Treatment works – which was flooded last month and supplies the Blackhurst Lane reservoir – has passed the tests of water quality and is, as of last night, pumping water to Tunbridge Wells.

However, Mr Clark said today he had been told by South East Water there are still "major unexplained losses of water".

South East Water said it has found 463 complex leaks in its network in the past week, but the company believes a substantial amount of water being lost could be from customer premises.

On Monday the company again saw an "unprecedented demand for water" which increased by more than 100 million litres to over 620 million litres - the equivalent of adding almost three towns the size of Maidstone or Eastbourne to its network overnight.

Cars being stocked with bottled water at Tesco in Pembury Road, Tunbridge Wells
Cars being stocked with bottled water at Tesco in Pembury Road, Tunbridge Wells

It says the issue was caused by the extreme weather over the past week and the subsequent thaw which has put extra pressure on the complex underground system of 9,000 miles of pipe which take drinking water from treatment works into clean water storage tanks and then onto homes and businesses.

South East Water chief executive David Hinton said: “We are working flat out to find the leaks on our pipework, but we are also are asking people to look in their attics, airing cupboards, under their sinks and to check the taps out in their gardens to see if they have got any unnoticed leaks which could be a trickle at the moment but later will cause major damage.

“If leaks are detected, they should turn off their water supply at the stop tap and call a plumber.

“Can business owners also go and check on their unoccupied premises and landlords on any unoccupied homes as if there is a leak it could cause continued damage to their property as well as wasting valuable water supplies.

"We are very sorry to our customers who are without water but we are doing everything we can in this incredibly fast moving and challenging situation.

The water company has reported some customers in Crowborough are seeing their tap water start to return.

However, it warns it will be intermittent for around 24 hours as the network refills.

Bottle stations are still in action at the Tesco car park in Pembury Road, while a second station has been created at Beacon Academy North Beeches Road in Crowborough.

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