THE full extent of the pumping station failures on Canvey during the devastating floods have finally been revealed.
Two pumping stations were out of action on Canvey for more than two hours despite repeated claims from the Environment Agency only one was badly affected by a lightning strike.
A power cut hit the island on Sunday, July 20 as one million cubic metres of water fell on Canvey in an afternoon – described by the Environment Agency as almost the full capacity of Wembley Stadium.
Initially, Environment Agency bosses claimed the island’s 13 pumping stations were off for 12 minutes after a lightning strike.
But the Echo can now reveal eight were out for between 11 and 19 minutes and another three were off for up to three hours.
As the Echo reported last month, Croppenburg pumping station near Orrmo Road was actually out of action for two hours.
At that time, the Environment Agency still insisted the island’s other pumps had only been off for a matter of minutes.
However, an official document seen by the Echo actually shows three of four pumps at the newest Scarhouse pumping station near Canvey Golf Course were off for nearly three hours.
All three pumps at May Avenue stopped at 5.18pm for 23 minutes – before losing power again at 6.51pm for 32 minutes.
Barbara Johnson, 55, of Holbek Road, saw a foot of floodwater destroy the ground floor of her home.
She said: “I dispute much of it and certainly the May Avenue pump was certainly not operational at around 3.30pm as we have photos as we drove past it.
“To say the water levels were not high enough to reach the pumping stations at this time is utter rubbish as the water in the dyke opposite was so high it was spilling over the top.
“Either way, there was a lot of ‘tripping out’ going on, which in my book, renders the whole thing unfit for purpose.”
Ray Howard, cabinet member for Canvey, and responsible for floods and water management, said: “I’m very mindful of the good work the Environment Agency do, but some of the pumps were not working.
“Last August the telemetry control room said the Antlers was showing it was working when it wasn’t. If the telemetry equipment can make a mistake on that then I think it could on May Avenue."
ENVIRONMENT Agency bosses claimed not enough water reached pumping stations for all of them to start working – but at a meeting they told councillors pumps were overwhelmed.
In a statement, they said enough water fell to almost “fill Wembley Stadium” between 2.30pm to 3.30pm, but then go on to say there wasn’t enough water reaching pumps.
Dave Blackwell, leader of the Canvey Island Independent Party, said the confusion over the pumps has to be cleared up.
He said: “I’m a bit suspicious about the Environment Agency.
They are very cagey and do not give all the facts. One thing they forget is we live here.
Canvey Lake was full to the brim and couldn’t take any more water. It took two days to pump out water from the rugby club and I’m still picking up calls from residents whose homes have not dried out.
“Whatever excuse they come up with, it’s mindboggling. One minute they say there is not enough water. At our meeting they said pumps could not cope with the amount of water they were trying to shift and were overheating.”
The Environment Agency claims once power was restored to all pumping stations, “there was not enough water reaching the pumping stations for all of the pumps to be operating.”
But councillors who were on the island at the time of the flooding disagree.
Ray Howard, cabinet member for Canvey, floods and water management, said: “I find that hard to believe, there was enough water. The amount that fell was unprecedented. It was staggering. I had councillors down at pumping stations who were there giving me updates.
“Saying there was not enough water when I have evidence to say that the May Avenue dyke was full to capacity, I find it very difficult. We’ve prided ourselves on thinking we had the best flood defences in the world, but now the threat is not coming from the sea, it’s coming from the skies.”
THE Echo asked the Environment Agency questions on drainage and why water did not reach the pumps.
Following conflicting evidence from councillors and residents over what pumping stations were working and when, an Environment Agency spokeswoman said: “Our pumps are located around the edges of Canvey Island, they do not suck the water through the drainage system like a vacuum cleaner, the water needs to move through the drainage system to reach our pumps.
“Once the water gets to our pumps it then has to reach a certain level for the pumps to operate.
There were times when the water level was not sufficient for the pumps to operate.
“During the time of the heaviest rainfall, interrupted for a short time by the power outage, our pumps were not called upon to operate to their full capacity.
“As time went on and more water was reaching the pumps the water reached levels beyond the design capacity of the pumps, which caused tripping out in some cases and the need for manual restarts.”
The spokeswoman added the surface water drainage system was overwhelmed and unable to deliver the water to the pumps.
She said: “The information we gave was the best we had at the time whilst focusing on the incident.
“We have had the opportunity subsequently to review the telemetry and get a better understanding of how the pumps performed.
As soon as we had that information we issued it to the public through Canvey Town Council and Castle Point Borough Council’s websites.