Emergency sewage works cause St Albans city-centre traffic chaos

Roadworks on Chequer Street

Roadworks on Chequer Street - Credit: Archant

EMERGENCY work has begun in St Albans city centre to repair a collapsed sewer that has caused flooding of the Town Hall basement, and a side road outside local eateries.

Thames Water closed Chequer Street between London Road and St Peter’s Street on Monday to allow engineers to dig more than three metres below ground and replace a pipe which dates back to late Victorian times.

Motorists have been warned to expect delays as there are diversions in place, with the work expected to take 10 days to complete.

The damaged waste pipe has flooded the Grade II listed Town Hall twice in the last two months.

In March, firefighters from St Albans fire station helped pump out the basement after it was discovered flooded with sewage four-feet-deep. The public women’s toilets were temporarily closed as a result.

One month later St Albans district council (SADC) had to coordinate another major clean-up of the historic city landmark after discovering significant flooding of the basement.

At that time the council’s head of community services Richard Shwe confirmed it was a recurring blockage in the main sewer rather than the public toilets that were the cause of repeated flooding.

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He said SADC had asked Thames Water to undertake immediate work to fix the problem and prevent more flooding.

However in early May there was a stink, literally, when sewage continually overflowed near eateries and shops opposite the back entrance of Boots on Waddington Road, close to Drovers Way.

The Herts Advertiser highlighted a local businessman’s frustration at the haggling between the utility company and Herts county council over which organisation was responsible for the clean-up.

Mohammed Benabla, owner of Rendezvous Café, had informed both the council and Thames Water about the sewage causing a stench outside his eaterie over the course of a month.

But each organisation claimed it was the other’s problem. After the story was published, Thames Water flushed gulleys in the area.

A spokeswoman for the utility firm has now confirmed that the collapsed sewer in Chequer Street had also caused problems on Waddington Road.

Despite clearing blockages and cleaning out debris, the 300mm-wide pipe has been deemed not fit for purpose.

Mark Grimshaw, Thames Water’s regional manager, explained: “We’ve had to get in and get this repair done because from what we’ve seen, this sewer pipe appears to be lasting about four weeks [following repairs], before it fails again and floods the Town Hall.

“Obviously this is a very busy route in St Albans so we’re really sorry for the inevitable disruption this will cause.”

Richard Shwe said he was glad the sewer was being repaired and that he hoped it would prevent further flooding of the Town Hall.