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CP467  Defining and Managing Health Risks from Sewage Flooding Sewerage
Project appreciation and objectives

Water companies face difficulties when dealing with the aftermath of sewage flooding. In 2005, WRc developed a model to assess risks from pathogenic organisms after sewage flooding in domestic properties. This allows water companies to estimate the risks, define appropriate remedial measures and provide informed guidance for those affected by sewage flooding. However, its application is limited, does not take account of recent developments, and does not include risks from chemicals that may also be present.

Additionally, the model did not cover in depth the risks to both livestock and crops affected by sewage flooding. In the absence of a proper risk assessment, the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF) has had to adopt a very precautionary approach in its advice on the duration of cropping restrictions and famers have expressed concerns on illness in their livestock.

Discussion with the National Flood School (NFS) has also identified the lack of effective practical guidance for appropriate remedial action where properties and their contents have been affected. As a consequence, the NFS has witnessed escalating claims for compensation with settlements becoming increasingly protracted and more costly for water companies and insurance companies.

The purpose of this study is to provide water companies with improved and updated guidance for responding in a consistent, effective and proportionate manner to a wider range of flooding incidents.

Benefits to clients

  • Authoritative guidance for water companies to reassure those affected when their health, or the health of livestock, is not at risk,
  • Robust evidence on the risks to resolve compensation claims in a timely and cost effective manner.

Work programme

  1. Development of a comprehensive and fully revised model for assessing the risks from a wide range of flooding incidents.
  2. Consultation with interested parties such as The National Flood School, The Food Standards Agency and the Health Protection Agency and The National Farmers Union.
  3. Guidance development in collaboration with the participants.

Project outputs

  • Effective guidance for responding to incidents
  • Manual of good practice for remedial treatment of properties to mitigate risks from pathogenic organisms.
  • The risk assessment model and supporting documentation.

Related work

  • A previous Portfolio project to develop the model for conducting the sewage flooding risk assessment.
  • Providing the independent advisory service on the health significance of micro-organisms in drinking water.
  • A risk assessment of verotoxigenic E. coli in public and private water supplies (with the University of East Anglia).

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