Water bosses accused of cover-up over redacted Whaley Bridge report

Water bosses are accused of cover-up over near collapse of Whaley Bridge dam as they release official report with reams of blacked-out pages claiming ‘national security’

  • The Canal and River Trust has released a redacted 2018 report written following an inspection of the Toddbrook Reservoir dam which nearly collapsed in August 
  • The report is so heavily redacted whole pages are covered in swathes of black
  • Residents ridiculed the ‘heavy handed’ approach and press challenged the Trust
  • Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire, was evacuated amid fears over the dam in August 

A government report into the partial collapse of the Toddbrook Reservoir dam – which led to the evacuation of the nearby village of Whaley Bridge – has been released so heavily redacted that entire pages are nothing but swathes of black ink.

The Canal and River Trust cited concerns over national security for the black-wash of its report but was ridiculed by residents and challenged by media organisations.

On August 1, 1,500 residents of Whaley Bridge in Derbyshire were ordered to leave their homes amid fears the reservoir would burst and flood the village.

Emergency service workers scrambled to pump out 300 million gallons of water after a wall around the reservoir was damaged and a huge hole appeared in it, threatening to wipe out the Peak District village.

Residents, who had to spend almost a week away from home, furiously pointed out they had previously raised concerns about the upkeep of the dam, which had been photographed with vegetation sprouting from the concrete of the spillway.

They, along with the BBC and other media outlets, demanded to see a report into the condition of the dam, completed following an inspection by the Canal and River Trust in November 2018, and by an independent inspecting engineer.

Large sections of the copies received by the media were completely blacked out.

An RAF Chinook helicopter flying in sandbags to try and stop any further collapse of the dam at Toddbrook reservoir which threatened the village of Whaley Bridge in August this year

The Canal and River Trust report, written following a 2018 inspection, has been released so heavily redacted as to be almost meaningless

Residents slammed the ‘heavy handed’ approach and speculated the trust was trying to escape scrutiny and criticism

Matthew Forrest, who has been among a group of residents to have called for a public inquiry and criminal investigation, told the BBC the redactions seemed ‘ludicrously heavy-handed’.

He said: ‘The population of Whaley Bridge had very little confidence in the Canal and River Trust as things stood after the near disaster in August that could have potentially killed thousands of people.

‘This nonsensical black hole of a document does little to build upon any remaining confidence and faith in the Canal and River Trust to internally investigate the causes, let alone replace the neglected Toddbrook Dam.’

Information left in the Canal and River Trust report includes dates when the reservoir was inspected, but measures that were taken ‘in the interests of safety’ and ‘matters specified to be watched by the supervising engineer’ have been redacted.

The Canal and River Trust told the BBC it had redacted information on the basis of ‘national security and public safety’, adding that there was ‘a high level of public interest in not releasing information that would result in a threat to public safety’.

In August the Toddbrook reservoir was drained to alleviate pressure on the faltering dam

Approximately 1,500 residents of the town’s 6,500 population were forced to leave their homes at the beginning of August, as emergency crews worked to shore up the dam

It went on: ”If the trust were to release copies of these reports, which were not redacted, it would be releasing key details of the infrastructure and potential vulnerabilities of the Toddbrook Reservoir.

‘This would prejudice the protection and safety of the public through potential damage or disruption to the national infrastructure by acts of sabotage.’ 

Today the trust told MailOnline: ‘Following the lead of the Environment Agency we have now made available last November’s inspection report into Toddbrook Dam.

‘For national security reasons laid down by the Agency, the regulator in England and Wales, the report has had to be heavily redacted. We understand the frustration but are obliged to follow national guidelines on this which are exactly the same for any other of the nation’s 2,000 plus reservoirs.

‘However we want to reassure people the report did not identify the need for any immediate repairs to the spillway. We remain committed to being open and have just organised a series of public open days for local residents to visit the dam and find out more.

‘Both the Government and the Canal & River Trust are currently carrying out independent inquiries into what happened and we expect both reports to be available in the coming months.’ 

Residents pointed out that the reservoir has been drained, which meant there would be no flood risk even if someone was to sabotage it.

‘Surely they [CRT] must have realised the farcical nature of distributing a 90% blacked out report?’ Mr Forrest said.

‘Some may speculate that they have done it in order to quash any further inquiry.’

MailOnline has contacted the EA for comment. 

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