UK Government to strengthen reservoir safety following Toddbrook report

16 March 2020

Reservoir owners in England will be expected to apply the lessons learned from the Toddbrook reservoir incident, the UK Government has said in a statement.

The Government announced today it has accepted a series of recommendations made in a report by its reviewer of reservoir safety, Professor David Balmforth.

The report - commissioned last September – looks to build on the country’s strong safety track record by reviewing events that took place in Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire last year after the Toddbrook reservoir’s spillway partially collapsed following a severe storm event.

Professor Balmforth concluded a combination of poor design and intermittent maintenance led to the partial collapse of the reservoir’s spillway following the heavy rainfall at the end of July last year.

The report makes a series of recommendations to further build on our the country’s stringent safety regime which will strengthen the remit of the Environment Agency – the government’s regulator of reservoirs – and aid reservoir owners in ensuring their ongoing maintenance and checks are robust.

The government will be accepting all recommendations, which include:

  • Strengthening delivery of the inspection regime to improve reservoir safety and help prevent similar incidents in future
  • Boosting the Environment Agency’s remit as regulator to enforce outstanding statutory maintenance
  • Improving reservoir owners and engineers understanding of structural failure of spillways Incidents such as Toddbrook are extremely rare, and these recommendations will further develop England’s reservoir safety regime.

“This review provides the whole reservoir industry with important lessons following the incident that took place at Toddbrook Reservoir last year, and I hope it also reassures the public that we remain committed to ensuring the safety of reservoirs across the country,” commented Environment Secretary George Eustice. “There is nothing more important than the safety of our communities, and I expect the Environment Agency and reservoir owners to immediately take action on these recommendations in order to ensure the continued safety those living and working near reservoirs.

The report recommends a second part of the review, which will take a wider look at how the Reservoirs Act and regulations are implemented and make any necessary recommendations to further ensure reservoir safety.

Defra and the Environment Agency have already begun to implement some of the recommendations - including working with raised all large raised reservoir owners and their supervising engineers to identify if any other reservoirs might have similar design concerns.

Damage was sustained to the dam’s auxiliary spillway during heavy rainfall in August 2019, prompting the evacuation of more than 1500 residents from the town of Whaley Bridge in Derbyshire.

After the emergency in August, the masonry weir at the inlet channel at the dam project was raised with the installation of mesh baskets filled with sandbags. In the year ahead, these will be replaced by a footbridge incorporating sluice gates, to provide a higher degree of control over water flows.

An RAF Chinook helicopter was used to drop tonnes of aggregate to fill an erosion hole that had formed following the flood event at Toddbrook

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