Andy led the Lanes emergency team, working on behalf of Thames Water, that first responded to the discovery of the Islington concreteberg.
Becoming an operational site supervisor was a “leap” says Holly Andrew – but she was certainly ready to jump at the chance.
Holly works for drainage and water utilities specialist Lanes Group plc in a pivotal role to assist Amey in delivering wastewater network maintenance services for Severn Trent Water.
When not at the Lanes utility hub in Stowe-by-Chartley, she is based at the Amey offices in nearby Stafford, helping to make sure sewer surveying and cleaning services are delivered smoothly across the Severn Trent region.
Holly, aged 30, from Nantwich, Cheshire, started working for Lanes in 2012 as a works coordinator. At that time, the company delivered services across Staffordshire only, and had around 20 wastewater engineers.
Now, Lanes has 231 colleagues working across the Severn Trent region, and as Lanes’ role has grown, so has Holly’s.
She says: “I joined Lanes because the work looked interesting and I could see it was a growing business working for a big client, so I thought there would be opportunities for me.
“It’s been exciting and very rewarding. Every day is different, and there are always challenges to overcome, but we’re delivering essential services that help thousands of other people which is what I like.”
Holly had previously worked as an administrator in an architect’s office and before that as a coordinator for a transport company, so could put her organisational skills to good use.
Then, in late 2017, she was promoted to be a site supervisor – the big leap – and was directly responsible for supporting a team of wastewater engineers, some with decades of experience.
She says: “It did feel a little daunting at the time. My manager was confident I could do it, and the other supervisors were very supportive, so I went for it, and I’m glad I did.”
Holly’s work includes organising work rotas, planning, scheduling and supervising projects, auditing sites for health and safety, giving technical advice and customer liaison.
Problem solving is priority for site supervisors. In autumn 2018, that was tested by prolonged rainfall across Staffordshire which increased emergency callouts by 200%.
Supported by other supervisors, Holly coordinated the resources needed to respond to the emergency and the additional work it generated. Within two months, workflow was back to normal.
Holly is very aware she is working in an environment where there are mostly men, though that is changing. However, she has never seen it as an issue in her career.
She says: “I have never been offended as a woman doing this job. If someone did offend me, I would tell them. But people trust and respect you and are supportive. That’s a big positive about working for Lanes.”
Another big plus is the chance to help protect the environment by educating people about not disposing of fats, oils and grease (FOG) and other items, including wipes and sanitary products, many of which contain plastics, down sinks and toilets.
She is a big supporter of the new Unblocktober campaign, launched by Lanes, to save sewers, waterways and seas from pollution by inviting people to change their disposal habits during October 2019.
Holly says: “Most people are just ignorant of the damage they are doing. They flush and forget, without realising that the FOG and plastics they send into the sewer system will cause flooding and damage the environment for future generations.
“We need a big effort to change hearts and minds and I see Unblocktober as being a really good way to help us do that.”
Holly is also keen to see more women work in the water utility industry. “It helps to be confident and be willing to speak up, but new recruits get very good support and training,” she says.
“It’s very busy but we also have fun and it’s very rewarding. Keeping sewers flowing gives you a real sense of achievement.”