School shuts as water supply cut off across island (2022)

Water has been restored to the Isle of Sheppey after one of the hottest days without supplies although the taps are still dry.

Southern Water announced it had repaired leaks bringing water onto the Island just after 9pm this evening but stressed it would take time to "recharge the network".

School shuts as water supply cut off across island (1)

It said: "We've fixed the burst pipe on the Isle of Sheppey and are slowly starting to refill the network. This is to protect the quality of the water we're sending back to your taps.

"Before you head off to bed, lease check all the taps in your house are turned off in case your water supply comes back while you are sleeping. However carefully we try to recharge the network, discoloured water from your taps is normal after a supply disruption.

"It's not harmful and will usually clear in 24-48 hours. But if you are still having problems after this, please give us a call on 0330 3030368."

It added: "We're so sorry again for the inconvenience caused."

As supplies dried up during the day at least one school, Minster Primary, was forced to close and asked parents to collect their children.

Supermarkets forced to shut

Supermarkets like Tesco were forced to shut up shop and even the Island's swimming pool in Sheerness had to close as there was no water for toilets.

A bottle bank was opened in a car park behind an amusement arcade in Leysdown to hand out free water but soon cars were backing up along the Promenade as residents hunting for water joined throngs of mystified holidaymakers who had also been left without water in the Island's many caravan parks.

The water shortage was caused by at least two large leaks on the main pipe taking water onto the Island from the mainland. Southern Water refused to estimate when the repair would be completed but gangs with mechanical diggers were busy in a field along the Old Sheppey Way and on the mainland by Ridham Dock near the Kingsferry Bridge.

A spokesman insisted: "Our teams are working as quickly as possible to solve this issue. We can’t specify numbers of homes at this time due to some experiencing a loss of pressure and others a loss of supply. Due to the nature of the network and how water pressure reacts around the network it is impossible to give an accurate figure."

At least 24,000 are served by the two storage reservoirs at Chequers and Queenborough Corner.

School shuts as water supply cut off across island (2)

The spokesman added: "Last night we undertook some repair work on the primary water main which carries water to storage reservoirs on the island.

"The work required us to temporarily pause the water flow. During that process, further issues were identified, that have not yet been resolved.

"Due to the hot weather there has also been exceptionally high demand so water storage levels are lower than normal. This has resulted in reservoir levels being depleted."

The source of the leak appears to be next to the Kingsferry Bridge on the mainland on the road next to Ridham Dock.

Our reporter at the scene earlier this evening said: "Southern Water engineers have dug a huge hole into the embankment using a mechanical digger to access what appears to be a leaking valve. Tankers have been shipping out excess water.

"Three men at the site did not wish to comment but admitted it had been a long few days.

School shuts as water supply cut off across island (3)
School shuts as water supply cut off across island (4)

"The site of the leak is within the site of a previous leak on a pipe running beneath the bridge."

There are more excavations on Sheppey near the gun club where a fleet of four water tankers are parked, as pictured.

Cars have been queuing down Leysdown Promenade to pick up supplies from the emergency centre set up in the car park at the back of Jimmy G’s amusement arcade.

Southern Water's Simon Fluendy, helping to co-ordinate efforts at the centre, said: “We are very sorry about this. The main pipe taking water to Sheppey from the mainland burst at the weekend and was repaired but it has burst again.

“We are working it as quickly as possible and have brought in a special team of experts from Newcastle to help."

School shuts as water supply cut off across island (5)
School shuts as water supply cut off across island (6)

He added across the company's area, which covers Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, it would provide some 540 million litres per day but on Saturday this rose to 659 million litres – just short of the 671 million record in July 2018.

Mr Fluendy said the company had invested in a fleet of six tankers which are delivering water to the island’s three prisons and hospital.

This afternoon parents were told to pick their children up from Minster Primary School as it was without water.

Southern Water is expecting to open two more emergency collection sites on the Island later today.

In an earlier statement, Southern Water said: "We are extremely sorry that homes and businesses on the Isle of Sheppey are seeing low water pressure or loss of supply.

"Last night we undertook some repair work on the primary water main which carries water to storage reservoirs on the island. The work required us to temporarily pause the water flow. Due to the hot weather there has also been exceptionally high demand so water storage levels are lower than normal.

"Our priority is to set up bottled water collection points. We’ll share where these are on our social media channels and website soon."

School shuts as water supply cut off across island (7)
School shuts as water supply cut off across island (8)

The company asked customers not to travel to water collection areas until they were confirmed.

Teams are working at several locations across the island including The Broadway, Minster where supplies to addresses are still in tact.

The leak causing the worst problems are thought to be through the large main bringing water across to the island from the mainland via the Kingsferry Bridge.

Crews are also at Kingsborough Reservoir and water tower at Chequers where tankers have arrived to top up levels.

The spokesman added: "Yesterday, as a precautionary measure to some ongoing work, we delivered water to all customers on our priority service register.

"The council have notified us of some additional households and we will make further deliveries to those people today.

School shuts as water supply cut off across island (9)
School shuts as water supply cut off across island (10)

"The team are working to get the repair completed as quickly as possible.

"We apologise for the inconvenience this situation will cause. Further updates on bottled water collection points will be made available on our website or on our social media channels."

Lorraine St John runs Kent Wildlife Rescue Services from her home in Sheerness.

She needs water 24/7 for her menagerie of wildlife including 25 foxes, 30 hedgehogs and a rescue dog.

Lorraine said: “We had to drive all the way from Sheerness to Leydsown to pick up our water.

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"Why? Last time it was much better organised with pick-up points at Tesco and Morrisons.

“Instead we had to drive from one end of the island to the other and got caught in traffic on Leysdown Promenade.

“While we were there we missed two call-outs. Leysdown was full of tourists and the car park only had one access for in and out.

“It was chaos. But the chaps giving out the bottles were brilliant. They filled up the back of the van then put some in the passenger seat.”

A spokesman for Southern Water said the Leysdown car park was chosen because it had access for lorries bringing in water bottles.

School shuts as water supply cut off across island (12)

He said: “It seems to have gone really smoothly. People have been very helpful."

He added that other sites had been “scoped” but rejected.

One woman who did not want to be named, turned up on her pushbike from Warden Bay.

She said: “This is my second visit. I got six the last time and this time they’ve managed to squeeze eight bottles into my panniers.

"The bike means I can dodge the traffic. I’m also collecting for my elderly neighbours. They are out. I don’t know whether they are aware of what is happening.”

School shuts as water supply cut off across island (13)

Some people have arrived at the collection points in cars, others turned up in vans, there are long queues by the arcades in Leysdown.

A spokesman for Swale Borough Council said: “We’re supporting Southern Water as they work to repair the broken pipe by identifying and making available water station sites around the island, and ensuring vulnerable residents are being supported.

“They are in the process of setting up water stations where residents can collect bottled water around the island and locations will be shared on Southern Water’s social media which we will also share.

“Anyone needing additional help can contact Southern Water on 0330 3030368.”

Minster-on-Sea parish council clerk Trish Hamilton said the authority had been "working with Southern Water and Swale council" to set up a distribution point for Minster residents.

School shuts as water supply cut off across island (14)

The island has experienced water losses before with the latest incident in October 2020 following a burst main.

Meanwhile, in 2016 residents lost supplies when a main burst along the A249 as some were left without any water for 24 hours.

Meanwhile, South East Water is asking people to think about the amount of water they are using as amid high demand.

Lee Dance, head of water resources at South East Water, said: “We have been producing an extra 120 million litres of drinking water every day - the equivalent of 20 million flushes of the toilet – for our 2.3 million customers to use but if everyone uses a lot of water at once, demand can outweigh the amount of water we are able to treat.

“So we would like to ask everyone to think about how they are using their tap water while they are making the most of this lovely weather.

School shuts as water supply cut off across island (15)

"If we’re all able to make some small changes, it will make a big difference. For example, to keep hydrated why not fill up a jug and pop it into the fridge so refreshing cold water is always available without wasting a drop by running the tap until cold.

“In the garden giant paddling pools are increasingly becoming popular, but a standard pool can use up to 400 litres of water – that's enough to fill four full water butts.

"When it comes to emptying it rather than letting it go down the drain, think about reusing the water on the garden to give plants a good drink along with refilling empty water butts to use the next day. By not using sprinklers or hosepipes, this will also make a massive difference to how much water is being used.

“In the home only use washing machines and dishwashers when full.

“Although we're used to managing high demand and have tried and tested plans in place, we are grateful to customers who play their part by using water wisely, so that we can continue to keep water flowing to everyone.”

School shuts as water supply cut off across island (16)

Sheppey taxi firm iCars took the decision on Tuesday afternoon to dedicate driver Dan Toomey to use the company's Ford Galaxy to collect water bottles from the Southern Water water banks and deliver them, free of charge, to the elderly, disabled and people in need across the Island.

A spokesman said: "In total we distributed 34 cases of six two-litre bottles to those in need and suffering from a lack of water.

"We collected the first 19 packs from Minster Working Men's Club but when we went back for another load we were told the club had been stopped by the council.

"We had to drive to Leysdown to get some more and then delivered another 15 cases to more people around the Island we identified as being in need."

After many complaints about gridlock at the eastern end of the Island, Southern Water eventually opened a water centre at Tesco, Sheerness, this evening.

School shuts as water supply cut off across island (17)

Swale Cllr Cameron Beart (Con, Queenborough and Halfway) said earlier tonight: "Just had a long telephone conversation with my contact at Southern Water who, as she rightly recalled, was with me and Cllr Shiel handing out bottled water long into the night in 2016 when this happened last time.

"I have expressed my continued frustration at the lack of planning and the slow response we have seen and have made several suggestions and offers of support from local people, organisations and locations.

"The water points at Minster and Eastchurch have run out of supply but are due to be restocked. I've made it clear that I think this approach is incorrect and we should be looking at moving to a location like Queenborough Morrisons as we did before and she has agreed to take that back.

"They have told me that they are due to issue a statement shortly. Some places are now receiving water but I'm acutely aware many others are not. I will keep in contact with Southern Water throughout the evening and update accordingly."

Isle of Sheppey Kent John Nurden

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