Southern Water to investigate ‘noxious fumes’ complaints following works in Ramsgate

Southern Water is carrying out work on Thanet's sewer system

Southern Water says it is investigating after residents from two properties in a Ramsgate street complained that fumes from sewer works were making them ill, with one person going to hospital to be checked over.

The works are to restore the sewer system in the Edith Road/Grange Road area. Residents first complained last week of the fumes which they believe are from resin lining used to seal the system.

Dad-of-one Steve Wheeler says he was hit by the ‘noxious’ fumes on Saturday last week but complaints to workmen and then via phone to Southern Water initially brought no results.

The self-employed NHS website builder said: “It affected me most as it was quite localised in areas of the house, particularly the lounge and the basement where my office is. Initially I was a bit dizzy. By Thursday I couldn’t even go in the basement as the smell was so thick and then I had headaches and nausea.

“I went to A&E on Friday to get checked out.”

‘Smell hit them like a train’

Steve (pictured) reported the fumes to Thanet council’s environmental health who advised him to contact the Health and Safety Executive. He says a visit was made by a Southern Water worker who said the initial calls had not been flagged as urgent.

Steve, 43, said: “He couldn’t smell it but then told me he had felt sick after leaving the house. Some more guys came and lifted the manhole cover and they said the smell hit them like a train.

“My partner and son have been staying with friends. He is only five and I was worried about him as his lungs are still developing. I have stayed at the house as we have a puppy that isn’t fully house trained so I can’t go to a hotel or friends. That means I have been exposed to it for seven days now,”

Steve says he has been unable to work and has had to leave all the windows in the house open despite the weather.

His neighbour has also been affected.

Call for answers

Councillor Karen Constantine says she called Southern Water to insist the contractor came out to investigate.

She says she spoke to the company four times but was told ‘the systems were down.’

She said: “I was called a third time by a senior member who said they were looking into to it. I explained at this stage someone had gone to hospital. That had real impact. But again I was informed that ‘systems’ were down.

“On the final phone call  I was told the contractor had visited the address and explained that the smell was as a result of ‘resin’ in the sewers, this was being used to seal sewers.

“I asked  why they didn’t know what was going on when I first called some hours previously, had the situation been explained to residents and had they or Cappagh Brown leafletted the area.

“ I also demanded that the residents should be able to stay away from home and be compensated for being worried and for at least one resident needing to attend A&E.”

Pledge to investigate

Southern Water says it is investigating and the results will be shared with residents and Cllr Constantine. The company has also offered to reimburse any costs for staying in alternative accommodation.

Spokesman Simon Fluendy said: “Some residents in Edith Road, Ramsgate, say they have been affected by fumes which they believe are connected to sewer restoration work we are carrying out nearby.

“We have liaised with the Environment Agency and are engaged with Thanet District Council environmental health to conduct a full investigation into this worrying incident.

“While we are not aware of any process or material in use that could cause any fumes, we have offered to reimburse those affected for the cost of alternative accommodation while the investigation continues.

“Work has stopped over the weekend and public safety will remain our key priority. The results of the investigation will be shared openly with residents and their councillor.”

Southern Water is currently carrying out a £30million upgrade to Thanet’ sewer system, which is more than 100 years’ old. The bulk of the work is being carried out in Broadstairs and Ramsgate.

The scheme is planned to be completed in early 2020 and is being carried out by TPMD, a team of three specialists – Terra Solutions, Pfeiffer and Matt Durbin Associates.


  1. Hi, we are Steve’s neighbours you refer to in the article. Last Sunday the smell was so bad, we called the fire service as my family were all getting headaches. We weren’t sure if was a gas leak. The fire service attended and told everyone to evacuate the house, open the windows and vent the property.
    I have contacted Southern Water 5 times now and am still awaiting a reply. Hopefully we will get some resolution on Monday, but we are honestly baffled by the lack of response / urgency from Southern Water. Thank you for helping put a focus on this issue that has left all my family with headaches and sore throat.

  2. The work is being carried out by three different firms which are “in liaison with the Environment Agency” and “engaging with Thanet District Council”.
    Why can’t we just have one body, called The Water Board, to deal with the lot. That’s how it used to be done. It was a publicly owned body with staff on regular hours with proper pay and conditions.
    But since the “privatisation” mania, we have ended up with a maze of different private firms that go out of business, or change their names, employing sub-contractors who then employ more sub-contractors , who then get some of the usual blokes to do it anyway. But we-the taxpayers-end up paying the Managing Directors of all these firms their mega bucks and the ones who do the actual work are losing their holidays and their guaranteed hours and pensions. And so are the ones on the end of the telephones catching the grief for shoddy work that isn’t their fault. This country is going seriously wrong.
    And-no-the EU doesn’t play any role in privatisation!That is a self-inflicted wound.

  3. You chat absolute rubbish i have my windows open all the time and was opposite the road works and me my girlfriend and kids were fine no headaches no sore throat nothing. The only thing that affected us was them working at 3 in the morning on a couple of nights making so much noise. Stop trying to get attention you weirdos i think if it was true the whole street would’ve complained but nope just a few who probably pissed off their road is closed and its noisy. Bet you been showing all your friends this article thinking your something special. They were noisy at the wrong time thats it. Probably your weed fumes and music giving the family a headache lol. Stop trying to get a hand out cause you felt sick conveniently when they worked your street.

    • Wow, just wow. What a venomous personal response to a real issue that is affecting several households, including adults, children and pets.

    • Hi Grange Resident…nice to see you actually read the article. The fumes aren’t outside coming in from open windows, they are in our house and have been for 9 days now. I’m so happy that you and your family haven’t been affected but please have some respect for those of us with genuine health concerns backed up by the fire brigade, Southern Water and their contractors.

  4. Excellent support and fast action from KCC Councillor Constantine! Something our new PPC should learn from – there’s no value in writing a policy, they’re already in place but being ignored! I hope Steve and the puppy don’t have long-term health effects from this. The vapour would appear to be heavier than air which is why I suppose the Grange resident was so cavalier about his family’s health, perhaps he lives in an upper part of a block of flats.

      • I fail to understand why Carly Jeffrey has attacked whoever is using a nom-de-plume for so doing and why she feels it necessary to name that person, assuming she is correct.

        Why not respond to the issue in the article rather than attacking the person? Attacking someone who chooses not to give their name smacks of playground tactics.

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