Kicking up a stink over St Albans city-centre drain problem

Rendezvous Cafe owner Mohammed Benabla stands in front of the cafe on Waddington Road where sewage w

Rendezvous Cafe owner Mohammed Benabla stands in front of the cafe on Waddington Road where sewage water is overflowing into the street - Credit: Archant

THE stench of sewage overflowing near eateries and shops in St Albans city centre is driving a café owner to despair as a local council and utility company haggle over who is responsible for its clear-up.

Shoppers walking along Waddington Road, near Drovers Way, have been complaining about the pong emanating from grey liquid seeping out near the pavement onto the side of the road opposite the back entrance of Boots.

Mohammed Benabla, owner of Rendezvous Café, said that he noticed the sewage on the road outside his eaterie about a month ago.

Pedestrians have been unwittingly stepping over the liquid, or been splashed by passing vehicles entering the road, and the smell has been exacerbated by recent warm weather.

Mohammed said that he had contacted St Albans district council, which referred him to Herts county council’s highway contractor Ringway. But that organisation told him it was up to Thames Water to clear the mess, which in turn denied responsibility.


So Mohammed has resorted to sweeping away the liquid before opening his café each morning.

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He criticised Thames Water and Ringway for giving him the run-around, saying, “none of them want to take the blame and they are all trying to blame each other.

“To be honest, I’m suffering but there is no one to go to. For the past three weeks at about 5am I have been brushing away the mess myself. There is nothing else I can do.”

Mike Lovelady, head of legal, democratic and regulatory services at the district council, said he was aware of the “foul-smelling excess surface water” and concern among local businesses and residents.

He added: “We have visited the site and are now liaising with the relevant authorities, the county council’s highways, roads and environment team and Thames Water to get this resolved as soon as possible.”

Matthew Kelley, Ringway divisional manager, confirmed that the firm received an initial complaint about sewage on March 30.

He added: “Ringway maintenance engineers attended the site within a few days to confirm this. As sewers are the responsibility of the local water company, we contacted them to investigate.”

However a spokeswoman for Thames Water said that staff had visited the site twice and reported that as a blocked gulley was the source of the problem, it was not the utility company’s responsibility.

She said: “We don’t know what’s causing the blockage.”

Matthew said that if further investigations established that there was not a problem with the sewerage system, a highways crew would clear a gulley on the street and jet the pipes to see if that stopped further overflows.

He said: “We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”