AS water levels begin to subside in Worcester, concerns have been raised about the toxic mess left behind.

Emergency teams from Severn Trent, Worcester City Council, the Environment Agency and Worcestershire County Council started work on the clean-up operation yesterday – but have a new problem to contend with.

Rising water levels flooded parts of the city’s sewage system, meaning that some of the lingering water is contaminated.

Hayley Oliver, who has lived in Portland Street, Diglis, for 25 years, is one of those affected. Her flooded basement has now been contaminated with sewage.

The 46-year-old said she thought she was well prepared for flooding after the 2000 and 2007 floods but was not expecting to have to deal with this latest problem.

“My basement is contaminated,”

she said. “It’s vile. I’ve had confirmation from Environmental Health that the water is contaminated with sewage.

"I didn’t think about sewage at all. This time around is totally different because of the smell. The smell gave everything away really.”

Ed O’Brien, of Severn Trent Water, said: “We completely sympathise with anyone affected by the rising river levels, particularly the residents of Diglis Avenue and Portland Street who are right next to the river and so first affected when it rises.

“We understand their desire to get things back to normal as quickly as possible and we are trying to help as much as we can.

“No one is to blame in this situation, the river burst its banks and flooded the area. When this happened, our sewers were flooded too, meaning that there was nothing we could do until the river subsided.

"We’ve got teams talking directly to those customers affected in this area.

We’ve also got teams out to pick up the litter and debris that is now visible, but until now we’ve been unable to start the clean up work effectively as everywhere was still flooded.”

Water in a garden in Diglis Avenue tested by Allen Wilson, an independent aquatic health and safety expert for Studies in Work, was found to be 60 per cent over in Adenosine Triphosphate.

A spokesman for Public Health England said a good level was below 10 and anything above 32 indicated bacteria could thrive in that environment.

But Dr David Kirrage, flooding incident director for PHE West Midlands and Health Protection team director, said: “The reported figures depend on what standard the flood water is being compared to – in this case bottled drinking water – and the concentration of the sample taken. As such, this is not helpful when assessing the risk to public health.

"We already know the water will be contaminated with a number of different types of bacteria, which is always the case following flooding, and in these situations water from areas such as field ditches can be just as dirty.

“These readings don’t affect our advice aimed to prevent infection, which is to wash hands thoroughly, especially before preparing food, wear protective waterproof gloves and rubber boots when cleaning up, cover up open wounds with waterproof dressings to prevent exposure to floodwater and ensure all materials and surfaces that have been contaminated with floodwater are cleaned and disinfected thoroughly.”