Working round the clock to repair ruptured water pipes

Closure: Rotherfield Primary School
Closure: Rotherfield Primary School

Almost 10,000 households in Sussex were left with no running water as South East Water battled leaks and bursts caused by last week’s extreme weather.

Today (Tuesday, March 6) a spokeswoman reported: “We’ve restored supplies to 8,700 customers in Sussex and Kent overnight. But we still have 12,000 customers with no water in Kent, Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire.

“We’ve worked round the clock to find and fix pipes which ruptured due to ground movement when temperatures went well below freezing.”

Incident manager Douglas Whitfield said: “We’ve managed to get water back to customers in Mayfield and are currently filling reservoirs in Rotherfield and Wadhurst. Blackboys will have supplies restored once pipes have had time to refill.”

There were several incidents of extreme hardship; firefighters from Mayfield, Crowborough and Uckfield helped supply water to farmers for their livestock. On one occasion more than 12,000 litres were delivered to a farm in Hadlow Down.

Ed Patterson from Crowborough collected water from a stream and helped neighbours flush their lavatories and wash.

And the boss of a newly refurbished office in the same town talked to BBC South Today reporters after the premises were inundated and furnishings wrecked as water cascaded down from the roof.

Social media was alive with offers of help. Isenhurst Health Club in Heathfield said people could fill their own containers and buckets from taps and dozens of postings gave addresses where water could be collected. Katie Walker and many others offered water via the Heathfield Community Group Facebook site.

Cllr Michael Lunn (Buxted and Hadlow Down) said: “It’s not over yet. As leaks are repaired and people turn on their taps, we can expect to see even more bursts.

“Given the scale of the problem, I feel local councils could not have done more and South East Water responded to calls. As far as co-ordination on the ground is concerned, it was challenging.

“We had 66 bottles of water delivered for 600 residents here, but prioritised the elderly and vulnerable. One lady is on oxygen, has no internet or car so it was essential to supply her. We’ve had another 12,000 bottles delivered this morning.”

Bottled water was still being supplied to Rotherfield, Wadhurst and Crowborough today. Schools were closed, or partially closed in Crowborough, Rotherfield, Mark Cross and Hadlow Down as staff awaited the reconnection of their water supplies.