Thames Water are coming under fire for posting an alarming sign on the gates of a recently-drained reservoir at Staines-upon-Thames. The sign reads: ‘Significant Risk of Unexploded WWII Bombs!’ Unsurprisingly, the locals are somewhat miffed by the incendiary warning, particularly given that Thames Water have acknowledged that they actually have no evidence to confirm that their are any UXBs in the reservoir.
Given its proximity to London, the Staines area was subjected to several bombing raids during WWII and the reservoirs were potential targets. Some were crucial in controlling the regional water supply, whilst others were used for military experiments (such as testing the bouncing bomb mechanism) or as bombing decoys. It is therefore not inconceivable that a potential UXO hazard exists in some of the reservoirs.
That said, to warn people of a hazard in an area when no detailed risk assessment has seemingly been undertaken, and no items of UXO have been found, is tantamount to scaremongering. Indeed, Thames Water has admitted that the sign was largely a ruse to prevent children scaling the fence and messing around in the reservoir.
Such matters should not be trivialised, however, because the use of such signs when there is no justification can diminish the warning factor and lead people to become blase about UXO matters. Conjuring up a UXO risk without positive evidence that one may exist is therefore poor practice for any contractor or public body.
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