VIDEO: A mammoth and muddy job

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Work has started to remove up to 2,000 tonnes of silt in Leigh to help prevent the town from flooding in extreme weather.

Sludge and debris weighing as much as 156 double decker buses is being removed from Bedford Pumping Station as the Environment Agency undertakes flood recovery works in preparation for the winter.

Specialist diggers at work

Specialist diggers at work

The pumping station, which was originally commissioned in 1964, has been a key asset for reducing the risk of flooding to around 670 properties in the Leigh area ever since.

Recently, an investment of £3m was made by the Environment Agency to refurbish the station and install sections of new pumping equipment.

With the build-up of silt, channel capacity for the pumping station is being reduced and, in flood conditions, sends the silt through the newly installed pumps, which has potential to cause considerable damage.

During the ongoing works – using some heavy and rather unusual-looking plant machinery – the Environment Agency aims to remove up to 2,000 tonnes of silt to ensure the station can continue to operate at full capacity in both low flow and flood conditions.

EA operations manager Chris Wilson said removing the accumulated sediment would increase the volume of water the river could carry, helping to prevent flooding.

He added: “We are concentrating our efforts on removing silt from the most critical areas of the pumping station where build-ups could increase the risk of flooding.

“The removal of the silt will increase channel capacity and ensure our assets work effectively in flood incidents. Less silt also means that water can flow away from built up areas quickly, which is particularly important during periods of heavy rainfall.

“Once this project has been completed, we can more easily maintain the silt levels in future years on an annual maintenance schedule.

“The last full de-silt at Bedford Pumping Station was undertaken 14 years ago so, as you can imagine, it is both a mammoth and a muddy job!”

The Environment Agency expect, the work to take up to four weeks. Nothing goes to waste, either. For, once completely removed, the silt will be recycled for composting.