WHAT would happen if a vital pumping station on the Somerset Levels stopped working?

That’s the problem that a training exercise staged by the Environment Agency aimed to solve last week.

West Sedgemoor Pumping Station is found near Stathe - which is located between Othery, Langport and Stoke St Gregory - and is in the heart of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

The pumping station’s three pumps move tonnes of water between the River Parrett and West Sedgemoor Main Drain.

Part contingency planning, part training exercise, the Environment Agency team tackled the scenario of the pumps failing with a week-long exercise to move temporary pumps from the Bradney Depot to West Sedgemoor and install them.

Ryan Kennedy, of the Environment Agency, said: “This is an opportunity to rehearse a worst-case scenario that we hope will never happen in real life, but it is good that we are prepared and know what to if this does happen.

“We are making sure our people and tools are ready for such an event.

“There is a lot of careful planning around this exercise to prevent any impact on the SSSI, so our biodiversity officers check every stage and the replacement pumps will only be operated for short periods.”

The exercise, which ran from April 19 to 23, involved two large pumps (which move one tonne of water per second), along with their pipework and associated tools, being transported and installed - in line with safe Covid-19 working practices.

The Environment Agency said that the exercise allowed its staff to act more quickly and effectively, while providing an opportunity to develop knowledge and skills in operating this type of heavy machinery.

The body also urges residents to be aware of their local flood risk, which they can find out here or by calling Floodline on 0345 988 1188.

More pictures from the exercise at West Sedgemoor Pumping Station, taken by County Gazette photographer Steve Richardson, are below:

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