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The charity making life better by water

Divers plunge into freezing waters to protect homes and businesses

Our team of divers have just completed a week submerged in freezing waters inspecting safety gates along the West Midlands’ 200 years old canals.

The gates, which are located within the wall of the towpath or along the bottom of the canal and are made from wood or metal, are designed to protect homes and businesses in the rare event that there is a breach in the canal bed or embankment.

The gates are part of the original design of the canal and work by automatically closing if there is a surge of water rushing along the canal. The weight of the water will keep the gates closed and create a watertight seal preventing any further water from emptying out of the canal and into the surrounding area.

Michael Banks, from the Canal & River Trust, said: “These safety gates are a brilliant yet simple piece of engineering. They are extremely important which is why we carry out a thorough inspection of them every year to make sure they are in good working order and ensure there isn't any large pieces of debris in the way which would prevent them from closing.

“This time of year the water in the canal is about three degrees, so really cold, and it's also pretty murky so visibility can be pretty poor. The divers are well equipped and used to working in these sorts of conditions but it is hard as the water is so cold. Thankfully they're a hardy bunch and just get on with the important work of inspecting the gates in order to keep local homes and businesses safe.”

Last Edited: 16 February 2015

photo of a location on the canals
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