STORM CHRISTOPH: Old drains struggling to cope
An environment chief has revealed road drains more than 100-years-old are struggling to cope with increased rainfall coming to Middlesbrough.
The past 24 hours has seen flood-water inundate streets and roads across Teesside after persistent heavy rain.
Council officer Stewart Williams told Middlesbrough’s environment scrutiny panel the town had seen an “unprecedented” amount of rain the past couple of weeks – and in the past couple of years.
But he also revealed little was known about parts of the town’s road drainage network – some of which dates back to the early 1900s – and how it will cope with extra rainfall brought on by climate change.
Mr Williams said: “Over the years we’ve seen increased flooding from the highways drainage network due to reduced capacity.
“This is down either the drains being not big enough to cope with the amount of water – or reduced capacity to maintain the gullies, so they’re filling up with dirt and leaves.
“Groundwater levels are rising and this is increasing the problem in the winter months.
“All that combined means we’re seeing a large issue with drainage and how the water gets away.”
Roads east of Middlesbrough have been badly hit by the latest deluge with Loftus, Tees Dock Road and parts of Grangetown inundated on Wednesday evening and Thursday.
Mr Williams told councillors Middlesbrough was generally one of the worst areas for flooding in the Tees Valley – with urban areas where water often gathered.
He explained the world’s weather patterns were changing and it was essential council teams responded to the demands of climate change.
The officer said: “Scientists are indicating that we’re going to get very warm summers, very wet winters and sea levels will rise.
“The issue with warm summers is they create difficult weather conditions – and we get intense periods of heavy downpours.
“What happens with that is the ground is baked in the summer, and the water will go straight into the ground most of the time.
“It will then go straight into the groundwater.
“What then happens is there is a lag time – and in winter, when the groundwater is then quite high, we have long periods of rain and that cannot get into the ground.
“So we have increased surface run-off which increases problems all over Middlesbrough.”
The Environment Agency manages larger water courses in the town – such as the Marton West Beck, Middle Beck and Ormesby Beck.
The council manages minor courses such as Blue Bell Beck, drainage ditches and culverted watercourses.
Camera studies and investigations are carried out to help keep these clear from sediment build up – with councillors told teams maintained gullies “where they could”.
Cllr Ron Arundale conceded the authority’s environment department was under strain – but was unhappy with the number of “choked gullies” he saw in the town on major routes.
The member for Kader added: “It seems to me the so-called maintenance programme hasn’t been done at all because I’ve not seen a road gully cleaner in donkey’s years.”
Studies are continuing across Middlesbrough to try and avert future flood problems.
Work to avert flooding has been continuing at Marton West with a scheme off Saltersgill Road now complete.
Meanwhile, the council is also applying for money for nine schemes over the next six years – including on Gresham Road, Lawnswood Road, Barrington Crescent, Thornfield Road, Connaught Road in Nunthorpe, and Shevington Grove, in Marton.
These collectively aim to protect almost 600 homes if the cash comes to fruition.
Elsewhere, funding has also been secured for a scheme south of Cornwall Close to create a bund with work promised this year.
Efforts to ease troubles on Ormesby High Street from rain running off farmland are also being examined in a bid to protect 100 homes.
Words: Alex Metcalfe, Local Democracy Reporter
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