FLAG Press Release re: Pump up the volume or risk Bridgwater flooding in the future

Release date: 9/4/2014

Without a substantial upgrade to Northmoor pumping station Bridgwater is at serious risk of flooding in future flood events. A vast amount of money has been spent on re-profiling and de-silting the rivers, but this could all be for nothing if the water cannot get off the land into the River Parrett.  
Water comes down the River Tone from the Taunton end of the catchment towards the River Parrett.  If there is too greater a volume of water, it spills over from the Tone into Northmoor before reaching the Parrett. The water on Northmoor is then removed via the main drain and physically pumped by Northmoor Pumping Station into the River Parrett, where it is then taken out to sea.  Any water that ends up in Northmoor has to be pumped because the River Parrett runs higher than the land, so gravity alone will not drain it.

The Flooding on the Levels Action Group (FLAG) have said all along that dredging is only part of the solution regarding the flooding of the Somerset Levels and Moors.  The River Parrett can be made as wide as possible, but the water needs to be able to get off the moors and into the river.

Above: The Spillway at Athelney.  Water from the River Tone starts to fill up Northmoor. Northmoor Pumping station now has to pump both Currymoor and Northmoor's water. 
FLAG published a Markers & Measures document in February 2014. They identified in their short term goals (0-5 years) upgrades to Northmoor & Saltmoor pumping stations.  Ideally the upgrades would include high capacity, variable speed, and low noise pumps.
Somerset County Council (SCC) and the Environment Agency’s 20 Year Flood Action Plan has NO mention of pumping station upgrades. This is essential infrastructure that is needed to ensure the survival and safeguarding of the Somerset Levels and Moors.  
The crucial pumping station is at Northmoor and this needs to have the capacity to pump 9 cubic metres a second, so that water can be removed quickly in reaction to changing weather patterns.  Currently the pumps are NOT capable of this, reaching only 4.4 cubic metres a second.  

Above: Northmoor Pumping station during the 2014 flood event. At its peak Northmoor pumps were pumping over 14 cubic metres a second, yet there are no plans to upgrade capacity at this vital pumping station.
Lessons need to be learnt from last year. The Environment Agency (EA) did not have the pumps or capacity in place and failed to heed warnings of the locals as early as Christmas Day. If Northmoor Pumping Station had been better equipped could the flooding of Moorland and Fordgate have been prevented? 
The EA only appear to have allowed for putting in hard standing for additional pumps.  Works to the culvert at North Moor Pumping Station, which was supposed to have been completed before this winter, has not been done. Many villagers will be returning to their homes over the next few months and will be living in fear of having to go through another flood crisis as no improvements have been made to the pumping station. The diesel engines have been replaced with electric ones. This is a worrying development as it means that the pumping strategy is fully dependent on electric generators and their supply. 
Rhona Light, a Fordgate resident, said:
“I understand exactly why this makes financial sense to the EA, but I personally believe relying on the energy supplier to bring in a back up generator should there be a major power cut is a significant risk.”
FLAG are pressing for a clear trigger point system to identify when the pumps should be put into operation. Last winter locals had to plead to both SCC and the EA to switch on the diesel pumps on at Northmoor.  This plea was ignored until it was too late.  At present one person in the EA makes the decision of when to switch the pumps on. This year they got it wrong and FLAG want to ensure that lessons are learnt from that. 
Once Northmoor is flooded Bridgwater would be next to go under water.  To prevent this from happening, an upgrade of Northmoor Pumping Station is a small price to pay rather than risk the thousands of homes and businesses there.

-- ENDS ---

Notes to Editors:

1. FLAG Somerset - Flooding on the Levels Action Group. Please find out more by visiting http://www.flagsomerset.org.uk or join our Facebook group at http://www.facebook.com/groups/FLAGsomerset

2. Follow us on twitter @dredgetherivers

3. For more information or to contact us please email pressofficer@flagsomerset.org.uk