Whaley Bridge residents' meeting minutes
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Residents' meeting Sunday, 4 August
Key = questions are indicated below in bold type.
Introduction by DCC Rachel Swann
Thanks to everyone for attending. We closed the window of opportunity to revisit your properties because a small number of people went back to their properties and refused to leave. There are 35 properties (correct as at the time of the meeting) where people are refusing to leave their homes, putting themselves and Emergency Responders at risk. Regarding security, there are no reports of burglary within the exclusion zone.
I’m really pleased to be able to say that we’ve had more people offer to volunteer than we are able to deal with.
Should you need them:
Helpline: 01629 533 190 9am until 10pm
Out of hours: 999 or 101
Update from CFO McDermott
Technical update from the CFO regarding the work conducted to drain the dam. There has been extensive work conducted by the Fire & Rescue Service and partners to ensure that the flow of water into the reservoir is limited as far as possible. The process to extract water is going very well, with extensive use of engineering facilities/pumps; this has required the construction of ad-hoc roads and a bridge. Work to provide support to the damaged dam wall is going well, with over 500 bags of aggregate filling the damage along with cement to provide additional support.
Should the dam break, we have ensured that there are rescue facilities in place from all over the County; we have the “best of the best” available to us, should the worst happen.
Progress over the past 36 hours has exceeded all expectations, and that has primarily been down to the support of the community.
Update from County Council
We have huge quantities of food and other supplies donated to us which are available for who have been evacuated; please ensure that you call us on 01629 533 190 if you need anything.
Update from Canals & Rivers Trust
The weather is rather unpredictable at the moment. The biggest concern for us is the rainfall predicted for overnight tonight (Sunday), although we do recognise that there is some additional rain predicted for later in the week.
We are now nearly 4m below the normal level of the dam; we are aiming for 8m. We are lowering the water by about 2m every 24hrs, but this doesn’t account for rainfall.
Update of Communications (DCC Swann)
We’ve been using Derbyshire Police and Derbyshire Fire & Rescue websites, Twitter feeds, Facebook and the local Whaley Bridge Facebook group. If you sign up to Derbyshire Alert you don’t need to be able to access to the internet, and we do have somebody present who can take your details tonight. There is a lot of speculation on social media, but it has been agreed that communications from both the official Police and Fire media sources is the definitive truth; this has been agreed by all of our partners.
7 Day Plan (DCC Swann)
We are currently working on a water extraction rate that is maximum for the outflow from the dam. Once we reach 8m then engineers will go into the reservoir to inspect it. If the dam wall is safe after this inspection, and we are able to maintain the safe level of the water, then we will allow residents back to their homes. We need absolute reassurance that the dam is safe, and that it will remain safe.
Address from PCC
Thanked the Emergency Services and all involved, and emphasised the importance of the official methods of communication.
Drone footage shown to audience.
Questions from the Floor
New Mills…should we take what is said for Whaley to be equivalent to us?
If we are allowed to return, how will we know there is a danger?
There will be three loud siren sounds on Police sirens and horns. This is the signal to escape the area and get to higher ground. However, we won’t let you return to your houses/businesses until it is absolutely safe to do so.
What impact will 24hrs rainfall have?
The forecast rainfall should not have a major impact on us (as of Sunday night). It may slow us down. We need to be really careful with how we communicate when you will be allowed back. You will be allowed back to your homes and businesses as soon as we can. We need to get down below 8m, and we are really hopeful that it will be before the weekend.
Once you are below the 8m, how long will it take to lift the evacuation?
This is still to be worked on. However, from the point of view of the public, once it is communicated to residents that the dam is safe, you will be allowed home. There will be some disruption after you are allowed home whilst we withdraw from the area, but at least you will be home.
There are some businesses affected, and we need to be able to get into the premises to pay wages etc.
There is a lot of work going on behind the scene to assist, and High Peak Borough Council (HPBC) are working on this. A dedicated line for businesses will be published either tonight or tomorrow.
We thought the abruptness of the evacuation from Marple was difficult to deal with. We should have had more advance notice as we thought the worst was happening.
Residents in Marple, which is under the jurisdiction of Greater Manchester Police, haven't been evacuated.
At the moment the evacuation happened, in the areas of Whaley Bridge, Furness Vale and New Mills, we thought that the dam was going to break, and that was why the evacuation was so abrupt.
We’ve relied on the television who have frankly told lies. I think we need to have the kind of presentation that was given today all of the time. This isn’t an accident, this is neglect. The Canals & Rivers Trust (CRT) need to speak up to explain this. I think this is because you have neglected your assets.
There is a lot of emotion and feeling about this. Yes, we do have some very old assets, but just because they are old doesn’t mean they aren’t safe. I’ll talk about the reservoir specifically. The reservoir is covered by the Reservoirs Act, overseen by the Environment Agency. The inspection regime is stringent, especially for a Category A reservoir such as this. There is a minimum inspection period of once per year by the CRT, then once every 10 years by an independent engineer. The last inspection was last year, with the report being published this year. The Environment Agency will investigate this incident; it doesn’t add anything if we speculate over the cause of this incident.
Why are the reservoirs being kept so high? This is a rhetorical question.
I went to report it last week, and the environment people said that we needn’t worry as we had 3m before there would be a problem coming our fence. It then happened.
CRT would like to speak to the person who asked the question.
DCC Swann: Can we please deal with the immediate here and now, then there will be time to deal with these questions after you are back in your homes.
Is there any provision to allow people through the exclusion zone?
If there was a life at risk, then we would make that decision on the ground at the time. You would be at risk and also any Emergency Services, so the decision to exclude people still remains in place.
Postage is important for people being displaced.
Post is being held at Buxton Sorting Office and can be collected with identification.
I’m in hotel accommodation. When will we get to know what is happening? The hotel accommodation is very expensive.
HPBC are present and will discuss individual cases; we promise we will help you.
Will you allow access into the exclusion zone for businesses?
Everyone who goes into the zone is at risk, including any people from the Emergency Services who accompany you. I will not allow anyone to risk their life to go into the exclusion zone. The level of risk will be continually assessed I can assure you.
If people leave their homes, will they be let back in? Also, is there a definitive list of roads that have been closed.
The road closure list is now published on the Police website, and people will be let back into their homes as and when it is safe to do so.
On the night it was chaos, and I couldn’t get milk for my baby. Police didn’t seem to know what road closures were.
I hope you’ll understand that on the night it was a very difficult situation, and everyone was trying their best.
What provisions are being made for people with livestock?
If you email Emergency Planning ([email protected]) then we will provide you with an answer and help where possible.
I have been broken into.
We will pick this up with a Police Officer (“I’ve already spoken to two Police”) and somebody will speak to you afterwards to take details as we aren’t aware of any burglaries. Homes are being monitored by Officers and 24 hour drone coverage.
The aim was to reduce the level by 8m, and presumably if we have another storm then it might refill.
The reservoir is about 56% full at the moment (Sunday night). At 8m it will be down to 20% so I am very confident that this is safe, and you will only be allowed back when the pumps can maintain a safe water level.
So you will be maintaining the level? Will you be doing something to stop the reservoir being filled?
We are confident that with the pumps and diversions in place the reservoir will not refill to a dangerous level. The level at which we will finish emptying will be determined on a risk basis, and we are emptying it at the optimum rate to protect the integrity of the dam. It is highly unlikely that the dam will be completely drained down as there will be an issue regarding the rescue of the life in the water (fish etc.). We will be seeking reassurance that the dam is safe from experts before anyone is allowed home.
Is it true that the plants growing out of the dam were the cause of the failure?
This will be investigated in due course.
Is there going to be another meeting?
Tuesday at 5pm
Will Long Hill be open as the Chinook has now ceased operation.
There are still 200 bags of aggregate on Long Hill, and the Chinook is on standby. Once we know that the helicopter is no longer needed, the road can be reopened (after the stone has been cleared).
Over Disley Tops there are road closed signs. Might this cause some confusion?
We will look it, but the signs are there to give people advance notice of roads which are closed ahead giving ample time to turn around.
Are you working with the Ambulance Service to understand the impacts that the road closures are having?
The Ambulance Service sit with us on the co-ordinating group; I can’t answer this unfortunately as they aren’t here.
Is the water going into the Goyt River?
Yes, but the river level on the Goyt is very good and at average levels despite being used for this purpose. The level is being continually monitored.
We need to ensure that businesses are communicated with.
The same methods of communication are open to businesses and residents alike; we’ve already covered how businesses can contact us for assistance.
Is there any funding available to help us with extra expenses such as extra gas or electric?
HPBC are here to help, please approach them afterwards.
I would just like to thank you all. We should be grateful for everything that you’ve done to help us.
Thank you, and we are grateful for you help as well.
If you walk up to the end of the reservoir where the steps are down, when it has rained very hard the water comes through the steps.
The CRT will catch up with you afterwards.
What is happening with the pets that have been left behind?
There are numerous volunteers to assist with animal relocations; the Emergency Planners can assist with this. Part of the reason we allowed people to go back was to assist with animals. Pet Rescue is now operating in the area to feed and water any animals out and about.