73. Disaster Imminent! Saving Toddbrook Reservoir Dam from Collapse and Flooding Whaley Bridge!


It was the most serious incident
involving a UK down in over a decade. It was very nearly the most serious
disaster involving a UK dam in over a century. When water started coming over
the top of Toddbrook Reservoir’s dam, the torrent began to pull away at the
concrete spillway. Nobody’s died because of an incident involving a UK dam in
over a hundred years. But on the 1st of August 2019 the worst wasn’t just been
feared…. It was expected to happen. [Music playing] [Music fading] I’m in Whaley Bridge and this is
Memorial Park, just behind me is Toddbrook Reservoir, it usually holds about
1.3 million tons of water. It’s massive, but back in August 2019 about a months worth of
rain fell in just two days and all that water came rushing down into the
reservoir, it overtopped just behind me there, came rushing down the concrete
slabs and it started washing them away you can see the damage behind me.
Thousands of people in the villages around here had to be evacuated. For a
few days the thought this might actually burst. Toddbrooke Reservoir overlooks
the small town of Whaley Bridge, it’s in High Peak of Derbyshire and it’s about
16 miles southeast of Manchester. The Peak Forest Canal ends here at Whaley
Bridge, it’s at the basin where the old transshipment warehouse is and it’s
where goods would be loaded from the canal boats onto the Cromford and High
Peak railway. The basin here is also where the canal is fed from the nearby
Toddbrook Reservoir it’s about half a mile up the hill just beyond the railway
station. Now the reservoir is a hundred and eighty years old, it’s fed from Todd Brook,
hence the name and it brings water down from the hills. It covers about 36
acres and it can hold a staggering 1.3 million cubic meters of water. Just a couple of miles from Whaley
Bridge over a hundred and forty eight millimeters of rain fell in the week
before the first of August, that’s almost six inches of rain.
Now the Canal and River Trust have claimed that this amount of rainfall
flowing into the reservoir in that short space of time was a one in ten thousand
year event and with so much rain in the days before the unprecedented rainfall
on the 31st of July was just too much. Early on Thursday the 1st of August 2019
the reservoir reached its peak, but water was still rushing down from the hills,
there was nowhere else for it to go and it began to spill over and cascade down
the concrete auxilary spillway. Concrete spillways like this are designed to
allow a safe and controlled release of excess water, if the levels get too high
it protects the otherwise vulnerable parts of the dam, so the problem here was
the concrete panels began to collapse under the torrent of water and behind it
was almost 1.3 million tons of water threatening to burst through any weak
point in the dam and it would have devastated Whalley bridge in the Goyt Valley. By lunchtime on Thursday events began to move quickly. By half-past
twelve the concrete panels on the right-hand side of the dam were
beginning to collapse. The Canal and River Trust alerted the dam maintenance
contractor Kier that there was a major issue with the dam. Less than an hour
later with the spillway collapsing the emergency reservoir drawdown plan was
activated and within an hour the Environment Agency issued an urgent
warning to residents in Whaley Bridge that there was an immediate threat to
life. Over 1,500 residents were instructed to evacuate the homes
immediately. Public transport in and out of the town was canceled and roadblocks
were set up to stop people coming into Whaley Bridge. That afternoon it was a
virtual ghost town, roads and bridges were closed as they were all the way
down the Goyt Valley in fear that they might collapse if they got hit by debris
should the dam collapse. Experiences engineers from around the country were
racing towards Whaley Bridge. I’ve spoken to one of them who had a police escort
driving him at 130 miles an hour. By 2 o’clock dozens of engineers were on site, plus over a hundred service personnel,
police from the Derbyshire Constabulary, teams from Derbyshire Fire
and Rescue Service, the Environment Agency and the Canal and River Trust and
volunteers from the community were all swarming towards the dam desperate to do
what they could to prevent the down from a catastrophic collapse. The priority was to stop the dam from
bursting and save Whaley Bridge. It normally takes weeks or even months to
empty a reservoir of this size, but the engineers had literally hours to get
those levels down and make the dam safe, But there is nowhere for the water to go.
With all the recent rainfall, Whaley Bridge and the Goyt Valley was already
flooded, so what were they gonna do. There reservoir has got to sluices that allow
water to be released either into the Peak Forest Canal down at Whaley Bridge
or into the River Goyt, but neither of these sluices were anywhere near big
enough to drain off the vast amounts of water needed to reduce the level of the
reservoir and ease the risk of the dam collapsing. So the engineers brought in 11,
12 inch diameter pipes and some huge pumps, each one pump in a colossal 200
litres a second, that’s like 12 bathtubs every second of water. Over three
kilometres of pipes were laid each one taking huge amounts of water out of the
reservoir and Todd Brook was diverted at its source at the beginning of the
reservoir to stop any more water coming in. So it’s so much extensive damage to
the concrete spillway and a large hole in the right side of it, why didn’t the
whole dam collapse. Enbankment dams like like Toddbrook are built from Earth, but
they’ve got a clay core. Now the problem with this is that if ever the water
flows over the top of the embankment, if it’s just earth it can be washed away
pretty fast and that’s why they built the concrete auxilary spillway. Now fast-moving water works in a similar way to fast-moving air. Just imagine an
aircraft, two wings, fast-moving air underneath it is enough to lift the
weight of a jumbo jet. Fast moving water acts in a similar way. It creates
pressure reduction like a suction, so if any of the concrete slabs on the
spillway weren’t sealed properly the soil underneath could be sucked out as
the water flowed over it and that creates a void underneath which the
concrete slabs would eventually collapse into. So part of the investigation I’m
guessing we’ll look at the inspection and maintenance of these concrete slabs.
A local residents showed me photographs of the spillway before it collapsed and you
can clearly see vegetation growing from it. This photo shows vegetation rights at
the point where the concrete actually collapsed. Luckily the damage
was mostly confined to the concrete and earth fill underneath it and the vital
clay core of the dam the strength of it seems to be intact. The next morning, Friday, thousands of people were waking up, if they got any
sleep, in a local school or friends or relatives houses. There was still
uncertainty about the structure and integrity of the dam, but engineers have
been working throughout the night to get those levels down as much as possible. Engineers had managed to pump out over a hundred thousand square meters of water
in just 12 hours, but the Met Office had issued another yellow warning for more
floods in the days ahead. Meanwhile an RAF Chinook helicopter
was deployed and it began dropping one ton bags of aggregate, each one
containing sand and gravel and stones, into the collapsed void in the dam wall.
Even though the clay core was intact, the load on the core itself had to be
replaced to maintain the balance and eventually 600 tons of aggregate was
dropped along with about 10,000 sandbags. During the Chinook’s operation a section
of the main ‘A’ road the a6 was closed and it became a holding point for the
Chinook to pick up bags of aggregate that were been filled by trucks and then
taken over to Toddbrook. So this is what six hundred bags of
aggregate looks like. WOW! The orange stuff you can see seeping between them
is like a waterproof expanding sealant. It looks like some weird industrial melted
chewing gum, but it’s holding everything together and making sure that the load
on that vital clay core is balanced and stable. It’s not until you get really
close up to this that you appreciate the actual size and scale of it, how huge
each of these bags are on the size of the concrete slabs that have just
disappeared and the sheer size of the hole in this damn wall. The collapsed
section doesn’t look that big when you watch it from TV, it’s only when you get
this close that you kind of realize that hang on this 600 one-ton bags of
aggregating here and hundreds of smaller sandbags, you kind of get the sense of
just how much danger this dam was in. Six days after the near disaster began and
engineers had managed to reduce the level of the reservoir by nine meters, it
was safe and residents were finally given the all-clear to go home and start
getting back to normal. Levels were eventually reduced to 12 meters below
the normal level of the reservoir and the pumps are fitted with monitors and
watched really closely by staff 24 hours a day 7 days a week. They’re in place to
make sure that what levels don’t rise and if they do, the pumps will kick in
and just pump the water away. Now with over a billion litres of water pumped
out the reservoir a new home had to be found for the estimated 30 thousand fish.
They were rescued in phases and they were transported in oxygenated tanks to
other reservoirs, including the Upper Bittell Reservoir in Worcestershire and
there’s still a few in here and they’re being cared for, air has been pumped into
what’s left of the reservoir to maintain healthy levels of oxygen and the
Canal and River Trust say they hope to remove the final few fish over the
coming weeks. [Music playing] [Music fading] There is a meeting a few weeks ago in
Whaley Bridge and the Canal and River Trust told residents it could take years
three more years to repair and rebuild Toddbrook Reservoir to bring it back
into use. An independent investigation has been launched and the initial
findings are going to come back to the Environment Agency before the end of
this year. The public will learn in 2020 what happened. Some people put it down to
climate change, freak weather events like the ones we saw in July and August are
getting more common. Other people are more skeptical, saying it’s to do with
inspection and maintenance. Maybe it’s a combination. I guess we’ll find out.
One thing that is for sure is the heroics of the Armed Forces, the engineers, the
police and fire service and of course the volunteers. People from Whaley Bridge and
beyond who came to help. That typical British stubbornness, the fortitude to
get in and get your hands dirty, get the job done and I think they saved Whaley Bridge. [Music playing] [Music fading]

100 thoughts on “73. Disaster Imminent! Saving Toddbrook Reservoir Dam from Collapse and Flooding Whaley Bridge!

  1. What can be said but simply WOW!!!!

    My wife and I have been watching all of your vlogs for several months and these fascinating vlogs have prompted us to not only partake in two narrow boat holidays in hire boats but also to take the decision to actually buy a boat. look out for NB Anne (47 feet long and seven years old ex-hire in green and cream from Crest Narrowboats at Chirk marina) in the spring.
    We watch many of the regular narrow boat vlogs and all are interesting. Yours, Colin Sean, are by far the most professionally presented. This latest offering on the subject of the Whaley Bridge incident is so well researched and so professionally presented that anyone watching for the first time would be convinced this was a documentary from one of the major broadcasters and an extremely good one at that.

    Extremely well done lads and Colin, you are a true presenter though I do realise and respect that you are keen to avoid the pressures of becoming one (part time perhaps one day if you can find a minimal obligation contract?).

    We loved it!.

    Barrie and Janice
    Kent

  2. Wow oh wow oh wow, fantastic research and brilliantly put together. If there is an award for best YouTube video of the year then this is certainly a winner for sure. The dedication at the end is a very heart warming touch also.

  3. Another amazing vlog! You guys are doing wonderful work. You have raised the bar for such things astronomically!

  4. As always, your vlogs are informative. This one was no different. What an amazing effort by everyone involved to keep the people and town from disaster. Can't imagine our country in it's current state of dismal finger pointing and mud-slinging, ever being able to come together so quickly to help those who need it.

  5. Most excellent I can not say more than that, there are not enough words in the world to complement you on this video, you do such fantastic work thank you, X

  6. what took so lone to report on this….I been looking at this all summer…the Brits,,,oroville dam…USA

  7. So where do you go after you have reached the top! I have watched everyone of your episodes and it has just been getting better all the time. I enjoy the narrow boat life style but the stories and history connected with the canals is what makes England come alive for me.

  8. We watch Journey with Jono, Cruising the cut, The Narrow boat experience, Well deck diaries, Floating our boat, Narrow boat chef and Minimal List. We are grateful to all of you for the effort you put in to produce your vlogs……….. But his was a Tour de Force.

  9. Wow!. This was fascinating. I remember watching the events on news feeds at the time they happened but this video puts it all together.

  10. What an amazing report, so informative and very well presented, just a stunning job congrats, and well done to all the services and volunteers, and community 2

  11. we had the same thing here in the US at the oroville dam in california if you want to see some cool footage watch the blancolirio channel.he did a lot of reporting on it. love the new info here.

  12. It's like floods in Austria, many years ago it was a 1000-year-flood, couple of years ago it was a 100-year-flood, today things like that will happen every few years…everything is changing, the weather gets more brutal, there is no more real spring or autumn, it is hot and couple of days later it is freakin' cold and the other way 'round. Is it just nature? Is it manmade? We don't know, but it is like it is. So glad that noone was hurt, killed. Thank you, sirs, for the so impressive documentation and pictures. Greets from Vienna, Austria to you. And, of course, to Dylan 🙂

  13. Finally! The first time this has EVER been properly explained – with the media giving nothing but the lightest coverage, its great to see a more in-depth analysis of what actually happened to the dam. Great work 🙂

  14. Better than Sky news And the BBC News. Now we're know what happened. Very informative, now we all know how things are now…well done guys…. See you in Doncaster..?… LOL The River Don….

  15. Thank you for this, it's a lot more informative than the mainstream news, and (I hope) more factually correct than comments on Facebook pages.

  16. Such a great summary of the near disaster! It’s a vlogumentary???? great work ?

  17. Well Done!!!! That vlog was more informative than the news broadcasts I saw on tv!!! Also excellent filming!!

  18. Just like the Oroville Dam the underlying reasons were lack of maintenance. The massive weeds in the cracks of the slabs tells the story, the moving water only lifted the soil due to lack of maintenance. I’m glad you made that clear, some will say lack of investment or mismanagement, regardless, we have hundreds of Victorian engineered monuments that need serious investment. The Blancolirio channel is truly the best source of recent dam issues, investment and repair. Juan’s channel alongside Foxes Afloat are my main YT channels just now, good job guys ?

  19. Saw this on the world news here in Perth, but didn't get the fall story. What a mess, I know what it is like to have to leave your home, as we had to last year for a bush fire. Luckily it blow back and around us, so didn't lose anything. Glad everyone was okay and no.lose of life of homes. Tez WA

  20. Well explained and I can remember watching it all live on tv….thanks for sharing

  21. What a excellent presentation. Colin, you have a wonderful speaking voice that makes your vlogs so very enjoyable. A very informative and well-presented piece. Remain calm and make more videos!

  22. Colin, this is an excellently prepared and presented report. I would love to see more videos tying in indepth reviews of the history of areas that you travel through. It would add interesting depth to the channel. Very well done!

  23. I'm behind on my vlog watching! here it is Saturday night and I'm finally getting around to watching this! we had to take the cat to the vet yesterday, and my whole schedule got mucked up because of that.

    this was an excellently presented vlog, Colin. and it's right nice how you give thanks to all those involved in the saving of Whaley Bridge. I mean, of course, you would, but that was a great ending to it.

  24. Well done. I thoroughly enjoyed that excellent account of the near disaster. Colin, your presentation skills is top notch. Thank you

  25. There aren't enough 'likes' or 'thumbs up' or smiley faces, or exclamation points to express how BLOODY BRILLIANT (or caps) this piece of journalistic excellence is … well done.

  26. Thank you. That was far more detailed and informative than the TV coverage at the time.

  27. Thanks for a superb & really interesting documentary. And so Well presented ???

  28. This was not just another video on YouTube this was one of the best documentary programs I have seen, the editing, the passion and the professionalism were outstanding. Brilliant.

  29. congratulations on an impressive account of the Toddbrook flood. This is a professional-level documentary that goes far above 'vlog' status. So very well done.

  30. Another super interesting and fascinating episode. As much as the event was a near-catastrophe, it also shows hope, to me at least. People helping, working together, to avoid a major catastrophe. And to me, the episodes you make stand out. Because you have a great way of explaining and documenting quite literally everything. Respectful in this case, playful in others, and always spot-on.

    Thank you again for sharing, and thank you for your wonderful channel.

  31. What a great informative and well produced video. What a talent, and very well presented.

  32. Excellent video about the dam, I've not seen any better explanation of what happened.

  33. A interesting report, but i do not have twitter and i red the "fart" discussion.
    I understand that you're senses are more acute than the average person, but what you are feeling is probably that you're boat's ventilation is insufficient, this while only get worse over the winter.
    So if i might suggest something add a Pax Calima to the vent in the bathroom it is 12V and controlled via Bluetooth.

  34. I love your presentation skill, gave a much more explanation to what happens and the scale of it, (the subtitles are a godsent for disabled people).

  35. what a fascinating vlog this really brings home scale of the effort that everyone involved did, for many it was above and beyond the call of duty, the devastation that could have been caused cannot be overstated. Well done to everyone involved, and to you for a superb presention of this dramatic event.

  36. Great story-writing and very well presented.
    What struck me was the lack of shopping trolleys, cars, bikes and other fly-tipping debris in the reservoir. Or was that just because of the massive scale of the reservoir that it didn’t show up in the footage?

  37. Fantastic vlog…….really well put together and clear explanations. Thank you so very much for this……puts the quantity of honey I’ve just grumbled about bottling into perspective! ????

  38. Absolutely marvellous presentation. But be prepared for more as years of poor maintenance and profiteering by greedy shareholders takes hold. It isn't just the dams. Near to me a very tall stone built retaining wall was allegedly re-pointed. Within no time at all it has masses of vegetation growing on it. When this one collapses it will not causes flooding but will have a catastrophic impact on the A6 beneath it and the railway it supports. People could still be killed or injured if close to it. Will the shareholders who are quite happy to cream money from this important infrastructure be just as happy to fund the repair costs. I doubt it.
    Rant over, really really enjoyed this, and your other vlogs. We did miss Dillon and Shaun though, give them both a hug from the three of us.

  39. Foxes Afloat excellent, top drawer production.
    How many hours went the into this masterpiece.

  40. Super duper job. You have found your niche Colin! You are an excellent story teller and combine superb videography with meticulous research. So glad you generously thanked the first responders. It must have been a highly stressful time for all. It isn’t until you see the men on the spillway of the dam that you can comprehend the size of the problem. The Chinook helicopter work was pretty iffy too.
    And as to how they fix the spillway? And where did the concrete slabs that floated off end up?

  41. You guys really ought to be in mainstream TV, absolutely top class, what i would describe as a professional documentary, research, filmmaking, editing and presentation, and guessing more besides .
    Well done.

  42. Love watching your videos. This one was really interesting and explained what happened way better than any item I saw on the news at the time. Well done! 🙂

  43. Any dam can fail, no matter how well designed, built or maintained it is. No dam normally survives being over-topped.
    I personally think the existing structure should be completely removed and replaced with a newly designed and built dam. This would remove any concern that this incident has caused any weakness missed in the investigations. The problem is, it is also the most expensive solution.

  44. yet another superbly researched and presented video , fantastically done guys

  45. I learned more from your mini documentary than all the news reports I watched every night, excellent ?

  46. Thank you for bringing this back to my mind. Shortly after the incident I wondered what would happen with the dam, and I didn't have the luck to find the right informations about it.
    I followed @blancolirio during his marvellous coverage of the Oroville Dam failure and rebuild, but despite some updates on Toddbrook in the first days there was no further information about Toddbrook dams future. No I see it more clearly.
    So once again, Thank You! 🙂

  47. Without doubt, the best film I have seen about this event. Have you had past experience in the media industry, Colin?

  48. Damn Colin, what a great piece of documentary work! All of it was amazing: the research, information, camera, writing, presentation, background music and sentiment conveyed. You have really outdone yourself on this work, thanks so much for this. I’ll be watching this one several times over!

    That said, I hope the air has cleared some on the Silver Fox by now.

  49. Fantastic vlog!
    It makes you think about how a disaster can bring people together everyday differences.
    Thanks for this and your other vlogs!

  50. Wow! Whata catastophic temporary solution…
    That worked! Build 2 more safe spillways in case it happens again…

  51. Great drone work, narration, musical advancement of plot & editing as usual!

  52. Truly wonderful, professional coverage I have seen on this event. Great job well done entering a new world of pure quality for the viewer. Please keep it going chaps

  53. I have to add you story telling Colin reminds me of a program once produced in the United States by CBS called, “On the Road” with Charles Kuralt. I’m sure there’s some examples on YouTube.

  54. Wow Colin, what an excellent and well presented video and the videography is the best I've seen on this distressing situation. Well done mate, a little out of the ordinary from your usual content but I think the residents of Whaley Bridge can be proud of how you represented their plight.

  55. what a wonderful little documentary our Colin. you have a good "telly" manner about you, and a clear presenting voice. yes, you are good enough to front documentaries on telly. but i understand why that isn't going to happen, especially as i have had mental health problems of my own for a few years. you do this at your own pace and choosing.
    love to you both,
    Ian R.

  56. That’s the best and clearest explanation I’ve seen of the near disaster at Toddbrook Reservoir, accompanied as usual by all your professional drone work and videography. Didn’t hurt we had the privilege of enjoying it sat on the sofa in front of the fire on a certain well-appointed blue boat ……

  57. Brilliant . Really enjoyed it even thou it is very different from your usual . Tells the story behind the headlines in such an informative and not too dramatic way. Sending well deserved virtual ? and ? treats your way 🙂

  58. Excellent piece, really interesting and we'll put together. Is hate to think how much time and effort went into it. How anyone can give it a thumbs down beggers belief. I find it amazing that the original stream that feeds the reservoir still exists. I noticed the same near my ancestral home Derwent, now residing under Ladybower Reservoir. I remember in 1995 jumping over the River Derwent a little way down from the hall with it's still intact fish pond. The banks of the River still standing large around the old road over 50 years after its flooding.

  59. Ìn California we had the Oroville dam near failure and a very similar outcome. Climate change is testing all these structures, sometimes for the first time in their existence.

  60. Colin your presentations are seriously excellent. Just admirable what you do and are capable of.

  61. I was very impressed with this video and your presentation. One question, all that water that was pumped from the dam,where did it go? It looked like the streams were already flooded.

  62. Crikey ..Ant and Dec had better up their presentation skills or you will be taking over.

  63. BRILLIANT Colin, just BRILLIANT. So much better than anything the BBC did in reporting it. And your presentation skills 'WOW'. Give yourself a big pat on the back mate. Looking forward to next Friday.

  64. So well put together as execellent as every. Very interesting thanks Colin regards to Shaun xx

  65. An excellent video, clear, well-informed, interesting and well put together not to mention the (as always) professional level of photography.

  66. You did an outstanding job of giving an in-depth explanation of these events. A great job! Thank you.

  67. What an excellent explanation of the whole event – especially as it's now fallen off the mainstream media. Look forward to hearing updates on the enquiries, which will probably merit no more than 30 seconds on the news, if that. Thank you so much for your hard work on this.

  68. The Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service were also involved in this operation to stabilise the damn.

  69. I think you have found a new calling in life that was amazing! absolutely brilliant.

  70. Thank you for an exellent report on that incident. I'm impressed by your way of doing it!

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