Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Frisians pump England dry

Since Southern England has been hit by flooding, people have called for Dutch assistance. One company is already active: the giant pumps of Van Heck are trying to give the British dry feet.

From our reporter
Marcel van Lieshout
AMSTERDAM It was raining and stormy again last weekend in the south-west of England and again the call grew for Dutch assistance in fighting the floods. Are our major dredgers and water engineers already active in the soaking county of Somerset, deemed a disaster area by Prime Minister David Cameron?
Bridgwater in Somerset is completely flooded. Pumps from Van Heck are trying to drain the water. (Getty Images)

The Dutch company that is now representing the national reputation in the field of water management is a pumping firm from Friesland. Van Heck from Noordwolde is a worldwide name when it comes to emergency assistance in floods. Since last Wednesday, the company has sent 32 trucks with 20 huge, mobile pumps and accessories to England.
One pump has a capacity of 6000 to 7500 m³ (6 to 7.5 million litres) per hour: it can empty an Olympic swimming pool in about 20 minutes.
This is one of the largest jobs in recent years and provisionally Van Heck will be at work until mid-March in England, according to project manager Ben Foot (39) of the Friesian company. Foot, born in England, is in touch every day with his director Roel van Heck, who is leading the operation in Bridgewater, Somerset. The pumps are expected to start work at full capacity today.
Such a mobile, diesel-powered pump weighs about 17 tons It is 6.5 x 2 meters and 3 meters high. Pumps with a capacity like those of Van Heck can’t be found in England. You won’t find them in many other countries either. In 2012, Germany called in the company’s help when the Elbe flooded its banks and caused a lot of misery.
For a month and a half, the South West of England has been fighting enormous floods. January was the wettest month in more than a century. Streets are permanently underwater and farmland has been flooded throughout part of Somerset. Foot: “These polders were created 300 years ago by the Dutch. Since then, no maintenance has been done on the waterways.”
The River Parrett is almost completely silted up and can’t cope with the water. Even pumping stations are underwater.

Structural solution
The British government Environmental Agency has approached Dutch experts to help think about structural solutions. Foot: “there are plans to dredge the rivers in that area properly.” Plans, but his company is the only one already active.
“Were also specialised in emergency aid,” Foot explains. In a couple of days, 32 trucks were driven onto the ferry at Holland. Van Heck ( staff of 22) has dozens of pumps. Several are now at work in Australia and the Middle East.
Foot confirms that his company is active in a growth market. In many places in the world, the quantity of rain is increasing and becoming more intensive and waterways cannot cope with draining it. That’s also happening in the Netherlands, he says, but of course this country has the reputation of being able to control water. In emergency situations, the Dutch government also involves the company. “In fact six of our pumps are running here at the moment.”
Foot won’t say exactly where. “Somewhere” in the north of the Netherlands a pumping station has broken down. The relevant water board however prefers not to publicise the matter.
(Volkskrant - 11/2/2014)

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