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Damming evidence


I note Jim Claydon's 'little local difficulty' at Winscar dam, necessitating rapid reservoir draw-down by over 20m (NCE last week). What if it had been more serious?

Starting 13 years ago I was privileged to manage the production of a specification for inundation maps, observe them being produced, and advise on secure audits of their existence and content, required implicitly under 1998 legislation. I believe that dam owners in the UK water industry have now done all within their power and responsibility to ensure safety in this respect.

However, experience of history and human nature teaches me that there is still a final missing link in the safety chain. Do senior police officers, Environment Agency officials, and local authority emergency planning officers (in descending order of importance), in every area within the zone of influence of each major UK upland reservoir, know enough about the nature and implications of a full emergency to take prompt and effective action?

The human consequences of failure could make a rail disaster, or even a modest nuclear incident, look like a children's tea party by comparison. Steps taken to date demonstrate official appreciation of that fact.

Sadly I fear that a letter to NCE is now the most effective way to reach everybody concerned rapidly, and to stimulate action. I would at least like private reassurances that all the essential arrangements are in place across the whole UK.

Of course we all hope, strive and pray that the emergency will never occur, but it could.

How should we apply lessons about local and regional preparedness learned from recent flooding and the foot and mouth epidemic?

Neil Cullen (MICE) neil_cullen@compuserve. com

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