Government to strengthen reservoir safety following Toddbrook reservoir report

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Reservoir owners will be expected to apply the lessons learned from the Toddbrook reservoir incident after the government today accepted a series of recommendations made in a report by the Government’s reviewer of reservoir safety, Professor David Balmforth.

England already has some of the toughest safety reservoir regulations in the world with a strong safety track record, and this report – commissioned last September – looks to build on this 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 already 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.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said:

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.

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.

Lead reviewer Professor David Balmforth said:

This has been an extensive and detailed review of the incident. I am grateful for the excellent cooperation of the Environment Agency and the Canal & River Trust, and for the input from members of the public.

Important lessons have been learnt and I have made a number of recommendations that will help to improve the way in which we ensure the safety of our reservoirs in the future.

Environment Agency CEO Sir James Bevan said:

Our reservoirs have an excellent safety record, but any incident is one too many – which is why we welcome Professor Balmforth’s report.

The Environment Agency will act quickly to implement these recommendations, and we will continue to work closely with all reservoir owners to ensure they are maintaining and monitoring their reservoirs in line with our high safety standards.

The report also 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.

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