David Benque’s Anerley Park home, near Crystal Palace, was destroyed in September last year when a pipe belonging to the utility giant “exploded” outside his family’s basement flat.
David and partner Claire O’Brien, 42, waded to safety through waist-deep sewage water, carrying their two young children - and lost £32,000 worth of belongings in the disaster.
The couple’s young children are still traumatised and play a game called ‘flood’ with their PlayMobil toys, and rescuing them from “poo water”.
Now David is battling Thames Water for compensation after the company refused to cover the family’s costs, and even left them to pay for the removal of their “destroyed life”.
The company says it understands how “distressing” sewer flooding could be.
A spokesperson did not respond to LondonWorld asking whether the chief executive Sarah Bentley, who earns a basic salary of £750,000 a year, was personally aware of the case.
David said: “The last few months have been tough, and I can’t let this go.
“On September 14, 2021, a Thames Water sewage pipe exploded outside our basement flat on Anerley Park. Our flat and two others were completely flooded by sewage up to over a metre high.
“It was 7am - we had under five minutes to wake our kids (three and five), grab a few things and get out with help from the London Fire Brigade as Thames Water sewage gushed in.”
While luckily, no one was physically harmed, David said the impact and “violence” of the incident had caused him and his partner immense stress and affected their two children.
Graphic designer David told LondonWorld: “You can’t put a price on the trauma - it’s hard to gauge what three and five-year-olds are going through but six months later they still play ‘flood’ with their PlayMobil.
“You hear them rescuing their toys from the poo water. It’s still very much in their minds.”
Reliving the flood, he said: “We woke up the kids and rang the fire brigade and started grabbing teddy bears… it was seeping through the door. We knew we had to get out.
“We opened the door and it started gushing in - everything started floating around. It was obvious this was a disaster happening.
“We had to get out carrying our children. The fire brigade arrived and we were up to waist high. My partner had to get helped by the firefighters to get out - they carried my son.”
Later the family were asked to sign a letter saying they would not hold Thames Water responsible, before the company would pay to remove all of their damaged belongings.
They refused to sign - and, as they do not have contents insurance, were left to pay £1,500 for the removal themselves.
David said: “Having to pay for the removal of our destroyed life was really insulting.
“We always assumed there was going to be something from Thames Water.
“But before Christmas they completely denied any responsibility. It was hard to digest as we hadn’t considered that… all the money we had spent, the trauma we had been through.”
David says the family are meeting their MP Ellie Reeves next week, and that their next step is “some kind of legal action” but that Thames Water is “confident the law is on its side”.
He said: “We felt very invisible through this whole thing. They’ve never really acknowledged this in any way - the violence of what happened. The completely traumatic experience that we and our young children went through. There has never been a sorry.
“There was a little hope of tipping the balance in our favour with public scrutiny and pressure which we weren’t holding our breath for. They don’t seem to be budging.
“Part of it is if we’re going to have to go away, at least it won’t be silently and we could bring some kind of justice to this case.”
He added that the family - despite losing £32,000 in belongings and shelling out between £10-15,000 on renting a new home and replacing essential items - aren’t looking to profit.
“We just want to make our family whole again,” David said.
“Their refusal to give us anything I think is quite amazing. It’s just insane.”
On Twitter, he added: “The only thing more soul-destroying than dealing with the consequences of this flood on a daily basis for months is the thought that Thames Water expects us to walk away in silence with nothing.
“With the building site closing we are one step closer to that. Our children still talk about the flood and ‘poo water’ on a daily basis.”
David said he wanted people “to know that they were made homeless and Thames Water did absolutely nothing about it”.
A Thames Water spokesperson said: “We understand how distressing sewer flooding is and we sympathise with anyone affected.
“In this case, the flooding was caused by a collapsed sewer which caused sewage to spill out into nearby properties. Our engineers were quickly on the scene and carried out repairs as a matter of urgency.
“Investigations show there were no previous issues with the sewer which would have contributed to the collapse, and as such Thames Water was not negligent and is not legally liable for the damage caused.”
They added: “As with all sewer flooding, we offered to clean and sanitise affected properties, which includes removing belongings which are too damaged to be returned to the property. “In order to do this, we ask our customers to sign a document acknowledging that we won’t be reimbursing them for the items removed.
“We encourage anyone affected by the devastating impact of sewer flooding to make a claim through their home insurance provider.”