Surely someone should take responsibility for sewage flooding into a couple's home
An elderly couple living in a bungalow on The Knapp in Great Bedwyn have yet again had to cope with sewage flooding into their home. This is a problem that has plagued Rosemary and Michael Cummins intermittently since 2006 - and still no one is willing to take responsibility for their plight.
On this occasion, after two days of heavy rain, the flooding seems to have been caused by the 'non return valve' that was installed by Thames Water to solve the problem. But no one can agree as to whether the valve was left open or shut.
This valve is causing almost as much stress as the problem it was supposed to cure. If the valve closes the Cummins cannot use their toilet, shower, washing machine and so on. But there is nothing to tell them when it closes.
"How are we to know when it's turned off?" Rosemary asks, "A warning bell would be a good idea." One of the many people who have been to investigate the latest flooding suggested they should go outside and lift up the new cover over the valve to check whether it was closed or open: Rosemary finds walking very difficult indeed and Michael is 84 next month.
It took the Cummins some time to get Thames Water to come and do something about this latest flood. Their bungalow is owned by Aster and during this crisis Michael says: "Aster cannot be faulted - they've done everything they can to help us."
It is not just the stress and the danger of having sewage in your shower, there is the awful stink. Rosemary calls it 'the stench', Thames Water don't: "They call it a 'smell' - I told them a 'smell' can be nice - like a flower or like scent."
She knows it is a stink - she and Michael started smelling it when they first moved into the bungalow in December 1999.
So what is this problem that has defied Claire Perry MP's meetings with senior Thames Water managers, endless 'phone calls and visits of drainage experts with cameras sent up pipes and plans consulted?
Thames Water is legally responsible for sewers - part of our water rates is levied specifically for sewage systems. But Thames Water do not control what goes into their sewers - that is down to the planning authority.
The problem really lies at the door of Wiltshire Council. Some readers may remember 'building control officers' who came and checked that what was stated on planning applications was actually being done and done properly by builders.
The sewage flooding homes on The Knapp is due to excess amounts of rainwater entering the sewage system - amounts it is not designed to cope with. Why is the rainwater there? Because builders 'miss-connect' rainwater run-off into the sewers rather than face the expense of making rainwater soak-aways or connecting home extensions to the non-foul water drainage system.
Thames Water know this is the problem. Some even say they know which homes are causing the problem. But nothing is done to put these miss-connections right. Where were the 'building control officers'? Are there any?
Why is not Wiltshire Council taking action to put this right? Why is the Parish Council not sitting on their unitary councillors' doorsteps demanding action?
Since 2000 there have been at least 50 planning applications for extensions, conservatories and garages in the catchment area above The Knapp. Each new building collects more rainwater on its roof and possibly miss-connects rainwater from gutters and down pipes into the sewers.
It is not only a problem of sudden if occasional floods of sewage contaminating homes and gardens, the Cummins can hear what they describe as a 'river of water' running under their bungalow - all the time.
Meanwhile in the centre of the village of Great Bedwyn the government funded £260,000 scheme to prevent flooding of homes has been completed by Balfour Beatty under the supervision of Wiltshire Council.
However, the rainfall over the Easter weekend proved too much and the allotments were flooded again. But at least the new timber barrier round the allotments held and homes below stayed dry.