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Whaley Bridge Update

August 3, 2019

By Paul Homewood



An RAF helicopter drops sandbags into the crack in the dam this afternoon

Just a couple more observations about the Whaley Bridge dam situation.

Weather Underground give rainfall figures at Whaley Bridge for the last few days below:





The big rainfall was on Wed 31st, measured at 1.86 inches. This is consistent with the numbers reported earlier.

Over the three days of Tuesday to Thursday, we have a total of 3.18 inches, which plainly is not exceptional at all.



Secondly I show below the tables from pages 62/63 of the British Rainfall publication for May 1944, which I highlighted in my earlier post These tables are for “Heavy falls on rainfall days”. In other words, daily rainfall:




It is crystal clear that two inches in a day was extremely common in those days, and across the country. Remember that this table is just for one week in 1944.

It is not cherry picked in the slightest, it was simply the date of the Holmfirth floods, which I highlighted earlier.

For any doubting Tom’s, just carry on reading the next couple of pages from British Rainfall:









If our dams really are only capable of withstanding two inches of rainfall in a day, then heaven help the poor blighters who live below them.

But it is now abundantly clear that the so-called experts, who are responsible for them, are using climate change as an excuse to cover their backsides for their own negligence.

  1. roger permalink
    August 3, 2019 10:54 pm

    Having been off line for several days until now due to a lightning strike destroying my broadband input and router, I have been itching for access to factual info about this dam, believing as I did that the MSM reports were probably fake news.
    Now reconnected and reading your earlier blog posting today I realise just how fortunate we are that sites such as this exist and that contributors with knowledge of the site, engineers with experience of dam maintenance, and others who have actually worked on this dam, come forward and provide an in depth overview of the duties and failures of those who were responsible for the structure.
    The government will of course set up a Committee of Enquiry manned by cronies in need of cash and after a decent interval all will be forgotten until the next time whereupon the whole exercise will be repeated

  2. MrGrimNasty permalink
    August 3, 2019 11:11 pm

    The Wainfleet bank failure was essentially the same, they denied dredging/maintenance was at fault and blamed a bit of a summer downpour instead!

    Our country is falling apart. Everything is gradually decaying. Eventually when a bit of a stress test occurs, the result is inevitable. Take a look at our roads, our pavements, they are all neglected and a mess. We have weeds, even trees growing in the roads around here, and they are a mix of paving stones and bodged macadam repairs. The money that should have been spent on maintenance has gone to Europe over 40 years, built lovely smooth roads and modern railways abroad.

    • Sam Duncan permalink
      August 4, 2019 3:12 am

      Much as I dislike the EU, it can’t bear all the blame. Our local authorities are like spoiled children, crying out for more shiny toys even as they fail to look after what they already have.

      I know for a fact that the lamp-posts on my street haven’t been painted in 25 years. Walking to the shops the other day, I counted seven unlit; three of those on a busy main road. As you say, the pavement on that road is cracked, broken, uneven, and loose. It’s an accident waiting to happen, and it’s been like that for years.

      But we have new bicycle stands! Talking electronic games on the rusty lamp-posts pushing eco-propaganda to kids! Subsidized Boris-style bikes for hire! Speedbumps (with mysterious marker bollards on the pavement for some reason)! Solar-powered parking meters!

      It’s long been the case that the modern political class measures success by how much is spent, not by outcome. We’re beginning to see the long-term consequences of that attitude.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        August 4, 2019 10:19 am

        Don’t miss out the empty cycle lanes introduced at vast expense and in some cases not even supported by the cycling lobby. And of course there are the sparkly new council offices built at great expense. The list of council waste is endless.

    • August 4, 2019 6:37 am

      Unusually for the BBC, they produced a programme about how politicians ignore maintenance in favour of their grandiose spending plans. Maintenance is the first thing that gets cut when money is tight. I recall Gordon Brown deliberately driving down electricity prices and so the first thing National Grid and the generators did was to cut back on essential maintenance. Future generations pay for current failure to carry out proper maintenance of our essential infrastructure.

      • Russ Wood permalink
        August 4, 2019 10:29 am

        Well, in South Africa, the electricity supplier ESKOM has failed to maintain its coal-fired power stations, while political cronies have siphoned off huge amounts of its funds. The state-owned enterprise is now bankrupt, and is not getting enough income to even service its debts, let alone pay for RUNNING the power stations. We’ve only been saved rolling blackouts (a.k.a. “Load shedding”) by Government throwing huge amounts of tax money at ESKOM to keep its Open-cycle generators running. In the meantime, a large number of municipalities owe the generator millions of Rands, and ESKOM is forbidden by politics to use debt-collection methods to try to collect. And YOU think you’ve got it bad!
        Political plans to re-organise the overstaffed company are being continually thwarted by the unions. Remind anyone of pre-Maggie days?

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        August 4, 2019 1:38 pm

        15 years ago I was in a 2 day seminar with Eskom who were looking at not only increasing generation and distribution within South Africa, but also expansion and electrification of neighbouring countries. That was before the politics overtook the remains of the more capable management.

  3. Athelstan. permalink
    August 3, 2019 11:38 pm

    “But it is now abundantly clear that the so-called experts, who are responsible for them, are using climate change as an excuse to cover their backsides for their own negligence.”

    Very well said indeed.

    Bear in mind the recent flooding in Lincolnshire, recall if you will the Somerset levels – poor maintenance = flooding and shit outcomes, blaming global warming is a very falacious but evah so convenient pretext.

  4. Chaswarnertoo permalink
    August 4, 2019 7:58 am

    The spillway had large weeds and a small tree growing out of it at the failure point, before the flood. Somebody needs a kick up the backside.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      August 4, 2019 10:23 am

      Very nice picture in the Mail of grass growing in all the joints at that side of the dam in 2016. As anyone with a paved path knows, once the grass gets in your mortar joints are falling apart and in need of repair. Of course, hiving off responsibility to the CRT means that you can’t submit an FOI request for the inspection reports.

    • August 4, 2019 11:14 am

      Absolutely. Last night I found this link

      and I also downloaded the Severn Trent introductory training PDF available from that page. It’s clear that the dam inspections have been thoroughly negligent, and probably only meeting the bare minimum set down in the 1975 Act. With drones now available to help with visual inspection there can be no excuse. I wonder when the last independent inspection was done, and what was the quality of that effort. They are supposed to occur every 10 years, with annual inspection by the dam owner. Severn Trent inspect their more vulnerable dams three times a week.

      I suspect that the impecunious canal trust that owns the reservoir were more than willing to ignore reality in the interest of not having a large repair bill, and weren’t prepared to lobby for the necessary funding assistance.

      These are all questions that should be tackled by any inquiry.

      I was surprised that there didn’t seem to be much in the way of more sophisticated inspection equipment designed to help identify the interior condition of dams. I was expecting radar or sonar/seismic devices that might help spot internal voids, and which could provide baseline results for comparison, especially for older dams built before internal monitoring equipment was installed during construction.

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        August 4, 2019 11:15 am

        “It” is me!

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        August 4, 2019 3:41 pm

        It seems there is an answer to some of the questions about inspection in the Daily Mail article showing the spillway covered in vegetation and with obvious deterioration between the concrete slabs in 2016.

        A spokesperson for the Canal and River Trust (CRT), which maintains the dam, said the reservoir was inspected and maintained by independent engineers.

        ‘This includes regular detailed ten yearly inspections carried out by an independent panel engineer and CRT supervising engineer.

        ‘The last one was undertaken in November 2018 and signed off by the independent panel engineer and CRT supervising engineer in April.

        So the EA seem to have pulled off another event that would have been worthy of documenting on the now defunct Inside the Environment Agency blog.

  5. tonyb permalink
    August 4, 2019 8:04 am


    I was for some years on the Environment agency Flood defence committee covering the south west.

    They are constrained by European law regarding what they can and cant do and by UK law as to policies geared towards say birdlife, the environment, habitats etc. This constrains their abilities to dredge rivers and watercourses and is set against overall co2 pledges which might suggest that water should be left to do its own thing.

    In the case of the somerset levels, there was a requirement to encourage a nature reserve nearer the coast which required water.

    Many of the place names in the levels are Old English and signify ‘hill’ and those settlements built on these centuries old known safe places survived. The trouble is that people like to live vey near the water and are vulnerable unless protected .

    King Alfred hid out in the marshes here. It has always been marshy. if you don’t want it to be dry land any more you get rid of the pumps which is what the EA were instructed to do. There are many old style engineers in the organisation who don’t agree with ‘benign neglect’ but they have to obey the law rather than common sense


    • Athelstan. permalink
      August 4, 2019 8:10 pm

      OK tonyb – noted.

      ‘managed neglect’ what a joke, there’s no such thing as halfway house.

      either you get the people off and away from the plains and allow it to return to it’s natural state or you don’t there is no middle road, people moved to that area and founded settlements when the land was properly managed and pumped but still there’s no accounting for acts of God and bodge, creepy crawlies nor EU diktat.

  6. August 4, 2019 9:22 am

    Reblogged this on Climate- Science.

  7. Coeur de Lion permalink
    August 4, 2019 9:24 am

    Yesterday the BBC Today programme ran a long rant about how climate change had produced rain and floods all over the north west and Wales and that it would continue even worse etc etc. This post gives me ammunition to fire off yet another Complaint. I hope others are? Last was about SirJames Bevan CEO the Environment Agency lying about sea level rise on the east coast. No reply yet. Always ask for a reply.

  8. August 4, 2019 9:30 am

    When this tragedy happened no one yelled climate change but now the BBC are quick to quote unnamed scientists who say it proves our climate change is responsible for everything.
    The worst post-war flooding disaster in Britain took place in the North Devon village of Lynmouth in 1952, in a tragedy which claimed 34 lives. The flooding occurred on 15 August 1952, after nine inches of rain fell in the space of 24 hours.

    The GCE revision for the Boscastle floods didn’t mention climate change:
    It happened at high tide.
    The steepness of the valley accelerated the rainwater falling on the hills as it travelled down to the valley floor where Boscastle lies.
    Hard impermeable surfaces increased surface run-off.
    The entire South-West of the country had faced stormy weather in the days leading up to the flood on the 16th of August, therefore the ground was saturated.
    The combination of high localised temperatures and the great quantity of unabsorbed surface water plus moist winds off the sea caused a great deal of moist, warm air to travel upwards quickly.
    The rain started, and within a few hours a massive 5 inches of rain had fallen in Boscastle alone. The flow in the valley was met by the water directed down from the moors, the sheer volume of water in such a small space at once caused the Valency to burst its banks & cause a high level of damage in the village.
    No flood control system.
    The sewer & drainage systems in Boscastle were old & had a small capacity.
    The river Valency had never had a major flood, so the residents of Boscastle saw no need to prepare for such an event. The flash flood was a freak event.

  9. Martin Howard Keith Brumby permalink
    August 4, 2019 9:53 am

    As a Chartered Civil Engineer in the Coal Industry, I was (personally!) responsible for the technical management and safety of numerous tailings lagoons and dams (which fall under different legislation but which are every bit as deadly if they fail).

    I also had responsibility for some large raised reservoirs which impounded water – mostly ‘legacy’ sites and including two large reservoirs originally constructed in the 1790s. (So 50 years older than Toddbrook). I was a member of the British Dams Society (an Associated Society of the Institution of Civil Engineers), whilst I was still working full time.

    There were numerous problems keeping old reservoirs safe and I had to spend quite a lot of money (and effort) on essential maintenance work.

    However, for the avoidance of doubt, the primary regulation for reservoirs is the Reservoirs Act 1975 (as amended over the years). This is easily available on line, although I have yet to see much evidence of ‘expert comment’ informed by this!

    Section 10 para (1) states:-
    (1)The undertakers shall have any […] high-risk reservoir inspected from time to time by an independent qualified civil engineer (“the inspecting engineer”) and obtain from him a report of the result of his inspection.

    The Engineers (whose necessary qualifications are set out at Clause 4 of the act), fall into a number of categories but the ‘Inspecting Engineers’ that I have encountered are extremely well qualified and practiced engineers. It would be very instructive to see a copy of the latest Inspection Report for Toddbrook dam!

    Of particular interest to the current problems is the fact that ‘high risk’ dams have to have an official inundation map which indicates areas likely to be affected in the event of a failure. And also the fact that the stability of the dam and its ability to withstand an extreme weather event is supposedly based on a 1:10,000 storm event. Obviously, (as Noah neglected to keep and preserve accurate & detailed records), this necessitates a fair amount of hypothesis and, no doubt, much computer modelling. Certainly the procedure for estimating a 1:10,000 storm event are complex in the extreme.

    The Beeb has informed us that the storm near Whaley Bridge was a 1:1,000 event. Gosh!
    ‘Unprecedented’, as they say. (A non-sequitur on stilts?)

    For the uninitiated, 1:1,000 is almost trivial compared to 1:10,000!

    Clearly there are some serious questions to be answered about the Toddbrook dam (although I’m not holding by breath that we’ll be told just yet, or even ever.). I’m not going to speculate as I’ve never been to Toddbrook and most of what has been reported is likely fake news. But Wiki does state:- “High rainfall levels resulted in damage to the dam’s main spillway in December 1964. The damage was repaired in 1965, but flood studies judged the spillway to be inadequate. As a result in 1971 an additional concrete spillway was added to the centre of the dam.” Certainly the old ‘normal’ spillway looks inadequate (although the odd glimpses the Meejah gives us haven’t been well photographed) and the state of the 1971 (?) armouring provided down the downstream face, speaks for itself.

    And, as has been pointed out, the Environment Agency is (Section 10 of the Act) “The relevant authoriti[y] for purposes of this Act shall be, in England F12… the Environment Agency.”

    They are the boys and girls charged with the responsibility for overseeing, regulating & ensuring the the provisions of the Legislation are correctly implemented. There should be a few EA employees to be interviewed under caution…

    Bearing in mind the Grenfell Towers disaster, it is hard to feel confident that the truth will necessarily be revealed anytime soon.

    • Mike Jackson permalink
      August 4, 2019 5:24 pm

      I know a bit about canals, having passed a fair amount of time holidaying on them over the last half-century, but I know next to nothing about the Peak Forest Canal and even less about reservoirs.

      So, that said, since the function of Toddbrook is, as I understand it is to provide water for the Peak Forest which only runs for about 14 miles the obvious procedure would seem to be to allow water out of the reservoir at a rate which will reduce risk of a breach while at the same time not risk people and property elsewhere.

      Which — — appears to be what the Canal and River Trust are doing. The only additional precaution I might have been tempted to take would have been to close the whole of the Peak Forest and the Macclesfield.

      My experience of BW has always been that

      a they are always extremely prompt to respond to a problem;
      b their first priority is the safety of the public (usually, inevitably, the canal-using public);
      c they know their job.

      Pity the media and ill-informed comment are always very good at ‘a’ and usually pretty lousy at ‘c’!

    • dearieme permalink
      August 4, 2019 6:08 pm

      What does “a 1:10,000 storm event” mean?

  10. MrGrimNasty permalink
    August 4, 2019 12:08 pm

    Anyone that has broken up a 6″ concrete path/standing with a sledgehammer will know it is near impossible – unless you undermine it first.

    As soon as some soil was scoured from under the concrete slabs, they would collapse under their own weight and/or lift with the hydraulic action.

    As mentioned, the photo in the MoS is telling – no way that was sealed against water intrusion, it’s a picture of weeds, sagging, cracks and neglect.

  11. swan101 permalink
    August 4, 2019 12:27 pm

    Reblogged this on ECO-ENERGY DATABASE and commented:
    Sigh…how often are these ‘manipulations’ of the truth going to be exposed? Thanks again Paul – you have your work cut out.

  12. saparonia permalink
    August 4, 2019 1:25 pm

    I posted this on your last post about the dam, it was a little late so am reposting it here:

    We have totally crap maintenance of older structures because the people who designed them are long gone and they lived in a different world.

    Not so long ago, I think it was about 10-15 years back, a bridge that was regularly carrying steel trains near Rotherham had to be closed for repair because when they went to check the foundations it didn’t have any.

    That’s right, NO FOUNDATIONS

  13. Robert S permalink
    August 4, 2019 1:38 pm

    I am a resident of Whaley Bridge, and would not disagree with the apparent poor condition of the spillway.

    However, it is extremely misleading to say that the amount of rainfall in the catchment of the reservoir has been unexceptional. River depth measurements from the Goyt River just downstream of Whaley Bridge measured 2.459m on the night when the dam was damaged. This is more than double the previous August high (1.2m in 2016), and significantly greater than all-time high since this station was established (1.8m in 2011).

    This is the first time the Toddbrook spillway has ever had to be be used in summer since it was constructed in the early 1970s. The water has never approached the spillway level, even in winter in the five years I have lived in the town. My neighbours (many of whom have lived in Whaley since before the spillway was constructed) confirm that the amount of water flowing over the on Wednesday night was far greater than they had seen before. Yesterday I saw for myself the widespread flooding of Todd Brook upstream of the reservoir, including complete inundation of a 300-year-old bridge.

    Anecdotally, it seems that the rain here this summer has been persistently heavy, rather than torrential — the reservoir was already full prior to the heavy rains of the last week, which is rarely the case in summer. I wonder if a longer-term measurement of rainfall in the catchment hills of the reservoir this summer (rather than over three days) would show a more exceptional rainfall trend.

    • August 4, 2019 4:30 pm

      How long has the gauge been there for?

    • August 4, 2019 7:25 pm

      Robert said “The water has never approached the spillway level”
      My thinking that is not cos of the rain, but that someone has been keeping the water level high this summer, instead of managing release to leave enough space for summer rains.
      Probably cos they’ve been paranoid about summer drought.

      What we’ve seen is water coming over the top and 1971 concrete facing panels coming away.
      Now does that mean there is a danger of the earth bank developing a hole and catastrophically failing ?
      I wouldn’t have thought so since those earth walls are metres thick.
      I wonder what engineering is used to monitor dam walls and release tension. Like wouldn’t you have 2 metre long holes drilled in from the dry side, so that if water started to drip out you could see you have an ingress problem ?

      • David Kendrick permalink
        August 4, 2019 9:53 pm

        Its live monitoring in a control room with victorian pipework where they are transparent tubes to show sediment, the intakes of which are at different levels on the dam inner wall. A clouded tube means you have a leak. My father replaced the Electrics on several in the area.

  14. tonyb permalink
    August 4, 2019 5:23 pm


    It would be my experience that the EA is full of perfectly competent engineers, many of the older ones with wide experience from other agencies and who know what needs to be done.

    At a higher level of management there is unfortunately the ‘quango’ mentality with some in high places not having much of an idea, who are pc and enthusiastically promote modern ideas that the environment -from flood water to water voles or reed beds have a higher priority than the local inhabitants. Getting them to dig out ditches or rivers is often problematic.

    What effect all this has on structures-with great dependence on computer models- we shall have to wait and see for the inquiry. Certainly I often look at sea defence walls and shake my head at their apparent condition although they are inspected and meet ‘guidelines.’


    • TomO permalink
      August 4, 2019 7:01 pm

      “-with great dependence on computer models- ”

      As far as the EA is concerned their flood modelling is regularly successfully challenged and the results can be (in my direct experience) mendaciously misrepresented by conniving middle management.

      The clear takeaway here though is that the spillway (and by inference is maintainer) was not fit for purpose.

  15. Philip Mulholland permalink
    August 5, 2019 1:01 am

    New Civil Engineer
    Engineers battle through night to prevent catastrophic dam failure
    02 Aug, 2019 By Rob Horgan

  16. August 5, 2019 11:19 am

    yep same farce at Wainfleet.. The flooding it seems was due to a lack of dredging and the banks being undermined by badger sets

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      August 5, 2019 3:44 pm

      Whilst the entrance to a badger
      sett may look comparatively
      innocent, burrowing in the
      embankment can be extensive.
      In the example opposite, over 230
      metres of burrow was excavated
      in the embankment of a flood
      storage reservoir.

      See Section 5.5 here for the spectacular photo:

      Click to access 2019_03_04_Maintaining%20Reservoirs_%20Redesign.pdf

  17. August 5, 2019 11:23 am

    yep same farce as at Wainfleet, flooding it seems was from lack of maintenance -regular dredging & badgers undermining the river banks… Another Environment Agency failure no doubt..

  18. Nick permalink
    August 9, 2019 10:34 am

    Root Cause Analysis will more likely than not, show a human failiure.
    The Proximate Cause is almost certainly a predictable mode of failiure due to water ingress beneath the spillway at weak points in the concrete construction.
    The underlying cause may well be lack of preventative maintenance of slab joints and lack of testing of a safety critical structure (the dam wall under the spillway) that is hidden.
    The immediate question is how many other spillways have voids under them? We would hope that all other similar structures will be looked at now and that testing by say ground sonar to revel any voids.
    As for the rain. The dam was doing what dams do. When the dam over topped the spillways did what they’re designed to do and take the excess downstream. If as has been suggested there was excessive rain the result would have been heavy flows downstream, in order to relieve the dam. As we saw there was no downstream flooding dispite rapid emptying of the dam by pumps. This demonstrates the dam & waterway were cabable of handling more than the flow of a couple of inches of rain. The rain is not to blame.

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