A TOWN centre street is beginning to resemble an open sewer with elderly residents forced to clean up the stinking mess.
The problems in Ford Street have been ongoing for the past five weeks after a drain in the alleyway to the rear of the Victorian terraced homes partially collapsed.
Combined with the recent heavy rainfall, the problem has become a living nightmare for residents who have been faced with sewage, piles of used toilet paper, tampons and dirty nappies.
Many, including pensioners, have forked out on wellies, protective clothing and pumping equipment to tackle the problem after constant calls to Thames Water have failed to get the problem sorted.
Pensioners Paul and Ann Dainton, who have lived in the street for 47 years, have been forced to postpone their annual holiday to Cornwall for fear that their property could flood with raw sewage with the next rainfall.
And to make matters worse, the couple are unable to use their own toilet, shower or washing machine because it will result in an overflow of raw sewage due to blocked drains outside.
Paul, 73, who has documented the problem on his camera since it began, said: “We have got used to the smell now, but it is terrible when the weather is hot and you can’t sit outside.
“We had planned to go away to Cornwall but if there is any rain, which there probably will be soon, we don’t know what will happen to the house. I have taken photos of when the sewage was up to our doorstep out the back and we were worried it would come in the house.
“We have got our wellies and buckets ready for when it all happens again, we are well prepared now.
“We have lost sleep over it – sometimes we are up all night trying to get rid of it all, then once we finish there will be another rainstorm and it will start all over again. It is very frustrating.
“We can’t flush the toilet because there is so much water pushing against it that it will just all come back up. Neighbours say we can use their toilet or shower, but we don’t like to so we cross our legs or we go in to town and use them there.”
Residents say one 89-year-old woman, who lives in Butterworth Street which also backs on to the alleyway, has been out morning, noon and night trying to tackle the problem.
Paul Skidmore, 47, who has lived in Ford Street for 10 years, said Thames Water had promised that work to fix the collapsed drain would start on July 17, but the situation is continuing in to its sixth week, despite a recent visit which saw the company pump out thousands of gallons of sewage.
“It is absolutely awful,” he said.
“We have given Thames Water several chances to put it right, they have assured me that they would start work on July 17, it is now July 25 and nothing has happened.
“It is like an ornamental feature out there, but with faeces and tampons. It is disgusting.”
A Thames Water spokes-person said: "We have been using tanker trucks to take wastewater away from the area, and have increased this so that the trucks attend twice each day.
“Engineers visited the site today to plan repairs. We are very sorry about the length of time it has taken to get this resolved.”