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The pumps at Hampton Water Treatment Works suffered an unplanned shutdown at 10am on 25 December 2016. The result was a loss of water supply and low pressure to customers in a widespread area of West London and beyond.
Losing water supply or suffering from low pressure is always inconvenient, but we are aware that this incident was particularly disruptive and distressing to our customers because it took place on Christmas Day.
Our team identified and fixed the problem quickly, but it took several hours to restore normal water pressure to all customers affected.
What went wrong?
The pumps at Hampton move clean water from the water treatment works into our large network of pipes in the area, which feed into customers’ homes and businesses. A fault with the control system which automatically monitors and controls the pumps caused them to shut down.
The issue was identified by us immediately, a technician was on site within 15 minutes and the pumps were restarted a little over an hour after their initial shut-down. However, we could not bring the water pressure back up to normal straightaway as the surge in pressure could have caused our water pipes in the area to burst. We had to gradually increase pressure across the whole area, which meant some customers were affected for much longer than others.
Who was affected?
The pumps feed into a network in West London which serves a population of around 167,000.
Some customers saw their water supplies restored very quickly after the pumps were restarted, with the majority of customers experiencing normal water pressures during the afternoon and early evening. Although the pumps were out of service for just over an hour, it took a number of hours to gradually rebuild pressure across the entire zone to protect against water main bursts.
We believe that 700 properties were impacted for a period greater than two hours, with 27 properties impacted for over four hours.
What did we do about it?
The unplanned shutdown on the pumps was noticed immediately and we were able to restart them a little over an hour later.
During the several hours it took to restore normal water pressure to all customers affected, we provided updates via our website, Twitter, and Facebook. The first update was provided 17 minutes after the pump shutdown.
We were in touch with the local and national media, who provided updates to their readers and viewers. We also let the local council and Public Health England know what was happening.
There were problems with customers reaching us by telephone because we had a reduced number of our team on duty due to it being Christmas Day. This was not good enough and we have made a number of changes so this does not happen again.
What happens next?
We have carried out a thorough investigation to try and find the root cause of the automatic pump shutdown, and have worked with independent specialist companies to check our findings. This has led to changes to our control systems and alarm settings.
We are also investigating how we can supply customers from another treatment works if a failure of this sort happens again.
We have made improvements to our customer service so we have more people on hand during out-of-hours emergencies and have increased the size of our social media team, which now operates 24/7.
We are sorry to all residents who were without water on Christmas Day. In recognition of this, we will make a donation of £40,000 to local environmental charities Friends of the River Crane Environment (FORCE) and Friends of Richmond Park.