Legal battle looms as UU denies flood claim

United Utilities (UU) faces possible legal action from Cumbrian residents who claim the company's management of a reservoir worsened the effects of the November floods.

Workington-based solicitors KJ Commons & Co has created a website to gather potential claimants, and is acting on behalf of a small group of individuals that are seeking to take legal action against United Utilities claiming it released water from its Thirlmere Reservoir.

The reservoir’s outflow is to the river Derwent, which flows through Cockermouth and on to Workington, the towns worst hit by the floods.

The law firm has asked UU for details of maintenance and repair records, flood planning, and the water levels and pump activity leading up to the floods to establish whether water released from Thirlmere either intentionally or through spillway overflows, worsened the crisis.

UU maintains it acted in agreement with the Environment Agency, and that its actions did not contribute to the flooding. A UU statement said: “The flooding in Cumbria during November was caused by an exceptional rainfall event, not the management of Thirlmere reservoir. The reservoir has always been and continues to be managed in consultation with local stakeholders, including Keswick Flood Action Group.”

UU’s management of the reservoir was called into question after two Workington residents told local MP Tony Cunningham that the floods might have been worsened by flows from Thirlmere.

Cunningham wrote to UU chief executive Philip Green asking for an explanation and his response, in which he denied that UU deliberately exacerbated the flooding, formed the basis of KJ Commons’ investigation.

Green is reported to have said in his letter that the reservoir’s main abstraction outlet – taking water to the supply network – was closed to protected drinking water supplies following water turbidity caused by a landslip into the reservoir the day before.

UU discussed the situation with the EA, which agreed with United’s actions and management of the reservoir, he said.

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