After days of unprecedented rainfall, a dam’s spillway in the small town of Whaley Bridge partially collapsed on August 1, 2019. The event made international headlines as 1,500 people were evacuated. Thanks to a well-coordinated operation, a major disaster was narrowly averted. Xylem’s rapid response from its Nottingham office helped prevent the collapse of the dam by quickly pumping out water from the reservoir.
When days of torrential rains caused part of the Toddbrook Reservoir’s spillway to collapse, police called it an “unprecedented, fast-moving, emergency situation.” If the entire dam wall collapsed, 300 million gallons of water would have rushed into the town and valley below. To prevent this, engineers needed to pump water out of the reservoir and into the River Goyt as fast as possible.
Xylem worked with SLD Pumps & Power and Kier, the latter being one of the main contractors for the Canal and River Trust, which runs the site, to solve the problem. In total seven engineers from Xylem worked on site, often around the clock.
“This was a massive coordinated operation involving hundreds of emergency services workers and subcontractors,” says Steve Simmons, Area Service Manager at Xylem who led the company’s operation. “My team was working on the dam wall side of the reservoir, which presented some unique challenges, including a very narrow access road. At times the site was chaotic, but everyone worked together, remained calm, and kept everything safe and focused on getting the job done.”
Xylem’s solution helps residents quickly return home
Xylem deployed five 55 Kw 2250 Flygt submersible dewatering pumps to draw water out of the reservoir, at a rate of 250 liters per second per pump. Within a week the water levels had been reduced by more than ten meters, and the town’s residents were allowed to return to their homes.
As well as installing the submersible pumps, Xylem set up six large Godwin diesel pumps (manufactured at Xylem’s UK Godwin factory in Cirencester) and numerous smaller pumps. Then, as the water receded, the team extended the cables and moved the pumps further into the reservoir basin. In addition, they provided aeration units and two 150ml diesel pumps with spray bars to help oxygenate the water so the resident fish could survive in the lower level of water.
Guy Fitzpatrick, General Manager Industry & Infrastructure at Xylem, added, “I am very proud of our team that supported Kier and its supply chain and undertook grueling work in a high-pressure situation. It was a great relief to see their efforts rewarded with a rapid drain of water to secure the dam wall and ensure the safety of local residents. We are extremely grateful to the Whaley Bridge community for looking after the crews and providing sandwiches and refreshments to keep them going.”
Pictured: Simon Flevill Service Engineer/Driver (left) and Ian Turner, Supervisor Service.