Water chiefs say they are ‘doomed’ to pump silt into the canal forever

The Canal and River Trust admitted last week that the high levels of silt in Gloucester Docks is because they had to override their monitoring systems while pumping water into the canal from the Severn during last year’s drought.

They say they had to do this as the trust provides Bristol with around half of its supply of drinking water.

Many dockside businesses have seen their trade suffer due to a lack of visiting boats this year.

Vessels cannot moor due to the shallow depths at the Docks.

Robert Eaton, regional operations manager, answered questions at a public meeting about the issue on April 27.

Brian Davies, who owns a boat in Victoria Basin, said the root cause of the problem is due to the pumps not having any filtration system.

He asked: “Was that a short sighted decision to save money at the time?

“All that is going to happen is you will continue to pump silt back in so the dredging is going to be a continuous cycle.”

Mr Eaton agreed. “Indeed, we are doomed to pump silt in forever,” he said.

“But we have a lot of technology and operating systems which are designed to detect silt and turn the pumps off in the dirtier conditions.”

He was interrupted by comments from the public. One man said “do the job properly in the first place”.

And another asked “why do you override them to pump water to Bristol?”

Mr Eaton explained the Canal and River Trust has a contract to provide water to Bristol. He said: “We supply around half of the drinking water. We also need to keep Sharpness open.

“So we needed the water for the operation of the canal for navigation and to supply water.

“Therefore we took the very difficult decision to override the silt monitors to keep pumping.

“Now we’ve done a lot of work recently to improve the quality of the water monitoring. In parallel with sorting out the dredging we are looking at all sorts of options from tinkering round the edges of operating protocol to major engineering works to improve the efficiency of the pumping stations.

“It might look as if nothing is going on but we don’t want to be spending £2 million a year, either.

“We are doing everything in our power to prevent this from happening again.

“We knew we were taking in more silt during that time. Most of it came in a very short window last summer.

“But, I have to say, even we were surprised by the volume of the rate at which it was coming in.”

One member of the public shouted: “This is neglect on a massive scale!”

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