News

Carmarthen flood wall to be repaired two and a half years after 2018 storm

22 Mar 2021 4 minutes Read
Flooding from the River Towy, Carmarthen, last month (pic supplied by Natural Resources Wales).

Richard Youle, local democracy reporter

Leaking joints in a flood defence wall that was breached during a major storm in 2018 are to be repaired.

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) said it expected to complete the work to the Llangunnor defence wall, Carmarthen, by late summer.

The work has been welcomed by Carmarthenshire Council leader Emlyn Dole, and the manager of Ken Williams Motors, Lee Evans.

The repair and breakdown business on Old Llangunnor Road bore the brunt of flooding from the River Towy when Storm Callum struck in October 2018. Other businesses and residents were also affected.

The damage and disruption caused by the storm led NRW to commission a full structural assessment of the wall, which got underway in May 2020.

NRW said the wall was stable enough to withstand storm events, and that it shouldn’t fail if it was breached again. But it said some joints were allowing water to seep through when heavy storms hit.

Huwel Manley, NRW operations manager, said: “The findings now enable us to move forward with the work to re-grout and re-seal joints in the wall where water has been leaking through.

“We have already had early engagement with contractors, and we are aiming to get this work completed by the end of August.”

Asked by the Local Democracy Reporter Service why it had taken a year-and-a-half to assess the wall after Storm Callum, an NRW spokeswoman explained that the consultants it commissioned originally proposed demolishing parts of it to determine its structural integrity.

The spokeswoman said: “This, in our opinion, would have created an unacceptable increase in the flood risk in the area. We therefore sought a second proposal which did not involve demolishing parts of the existing structure, but used core samples from the wall instead, to inform the investigation.”

There were further delays due to storms, Towy flood levels and Covid, meaning the structural assessment only recently concluded.

Asked how many leaking joints would need attention, the NRW spokeswoman said “a number of both expansion and horizontal joints along the defence will be looked at”.

‘Evacuate’

NRW has been working with the council since Storm Callum to pump flood water from behind the wall during storms to protect businesses.

Mr Evans, of Ken Williams Motors, said the defence wall was nearly breached last month when yet more torrential rainfall hit the region.

“Obviously something needs to be done,” he said.

Although the wall held firm, Mr Evans said water from below forced up Tarmac on the road leading to the business.

He said Storm Callum was the first time the premises had flooded since it was set up around 15 years ago. But more intense rainfall was, he said, becoming more frequent, causing an operational headache.

He said: “Now every couple of months we evacuate, removing all the vehicles and office equipment.”

Mr Evans added that an employee had to be on standby if the rising river levels peaked at night.

He said the company would move its Old Llangunnor Road base if a suitable replacement location became available in Carmarthen.

‘More frequent’

Cllr Emlyn Dole said the council had been discussing the defence wall with NRW since Storm Callum and had also been liaising with local businesses.

“We have been supporting NRW with temporary arrangements for controlling flood water as far as is practicable during recent storm events,” he said.

“It is reassuring to learn that the stability of the wall has been verified and there are no concerns over the structural integrity of the flood defence structure.”

The Towy has burst its banks a number of times in the last couple of years.

Speaking last month following such an incident, Cllr Dole said levels were “precariously close” to those during Storm Callum.

“It’s plainly evident that storms causing river flooding are becoming more frequent and they are becoming more intense,” he said.

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