The Somerset Levels could be at risk of flooding again now the Environment Agency has revealed its £5 million dredging scheme is so drastically behind schedule only five per cent of the area has been completed.
Staggeringly the dredging, which the Environment Agency began on March 28, has only removed 13,050 cubic metres of material instead of the target 235,000 cubic metres.
The news comes just months after the levels experienced the worst flooding in 250 years with the area under metres of water which forced hundreds of people to flee their homes and businesses.
After a public outcry blamed the lack of dregding in recent years for the floods the government gave the green light to the multi-million pound dredging scheme.
But just two months after it started public confidence in the Environment Agency is yet again plummeting as a question mark looms over whether the dredging will be finished on time.
The dreding must be completed by October before winter rainfall and high tides are forecast but the current progress means the work might not be finished leaving the area prone to further flooding.
The levels flood campaign group FLAG, or Flooded Levels Action Group, has grave concerns about what the impact of the behind-schedule dredging will be.
A spokesman for FLAG said: “We are becoming increasingly concerned about the progress.
“So far it has been slow. We have received mixed messages from the Environment Agency and there have been other parties whose professional advice is that there are more efficient ways of completing this task.
“Public trust in the operation is low.
“The Dredge is scheduled to finish in October, which in our opinion is risky, as at the current rate of work there appears to be no contingency for inclement weather.
“So far theestimated total of silt to be dredged is 235,000 cubicmetres.
“According to the EA briefing on May 16 only 13,050 cubic metres have been dredged so far, so therefore only five per cent of the silt has been dredged.
“This means 20 per cent of the available time has been used to dredge only five per cent of the silt that needs to be removed.
“This Dredge must be completed in full before the high tides and rain arrive in the autumn.
“The estimated total of silt to be dredged is 235,000 cubic metres, however, according to an Environment Agency briefing in Mid May, so far 13,050 only cubic metres of material has been removed.”
FLAG has voiced serious concerns about the pace of the work which means 20 per cent of the available time has been used to dredge only 5 per cent of the silt that needs to be removed.
However Paul Gainey from the Environment Agency dismissed the fears raised by FLAG and the figures and said the project was on track to meet the October deadline.
He said: “We are confident that the work will be completed in the time-frame originally outlined barring any adverse weather.
“The health and safety of the people doing the work is of paramount importance to us and their welfare and wellbeing must always be taken into consideration.”
Mr Gainey said dredging on the Parrett was continuing with employees putting in long days during the week and consideration being given to weekend working.
He said regular flood surgeries were held across the Somerset Levels for local residents, who also received weekly updates on the project.
Mr Gainey said dredging would start on the River Tone by the end of May and was scheduled to be completed by the end of October.
The dredging on the Parrett was also due to be completed at the end of October, although he added that it could be subject to change like any major civil engineering project.