Locals in a Norfolk village say they have to rely on buckets to answer calls of nature because long-standing flooding problems leave them unable to use their toilets for days on end.

The issue - which has persisted for more than 20 years - occurs in Bunwell, near Wymondham, whenever there is heavy rain.

Locals say the rainwater can cause their toilets to back up with raw sewage, which has been known to spill over the rim.

The recent storms and downpours have caused the issue to rise up again, affecting a number of homes.

Eastern Daily Press: The Anglian Water vacuum pumping stationThe Anglian Water vacuum pumping station (Image: Owen Sennitt)

The problem has been attributed to surface water getting into Anglian Water's vacuum sewerage system that is designed to suck wastewater from properties to a pumping station more than a mile away.

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The system was installed in 1995 and since the issue first arose the water company says it has invested £1.6m in making improvements but the problems persist.

"It has never been right since it was put in," said Yvonne Coppin, 79, who has lived in her home  on Mill Road with her husband for 32 years. 

"It comes up the toilet and if you use it it floods over.

"We don’t need this at our age. It’s not easy to balance on buckets."

Eastern Daily Press: Yvonne Copping, 79, has had enough of the flooding issuesYvonne Copping, 79, has had enough of the flooding issues (Image: Owen Sennitt)

Neighbour Tony Chase, 88, said he worried about the situation whenever it rained.

"I have cancer so not being able to use the toilet is not easy when you have problems like I have.

"It happened again during the recent storms."

The problems have meant tankers have to be sent to the village to help clear the backed-up system to take the excess water away to prevent homes from flooding.

Eastern Daily Press: Some of the affected homes in Bunwell in Mile RoadSome of the affected homes in Bunwell in Mile Road (Image: Google)

Another neighbour, 74 - who asked not be named - said that several years ago, much of his bungalow was flooded by water coming up through his toilet, costing thousands in insurance pay-outs.

He is concerned that new housing developments are putting more pressure on an already struggling sewer system.

There are a number of recent new builds in the area and 35 more homes have been earmarked to be built on land in the village.

"I can't believe they want to build more houses in an area where the system is not working now. It will only add to the problem.

"Anglian Water engineers had put a non-return valve in which helped but now it floods in my front garden.

"When storms come my toilet fills up within an hour and it can take between 24 to 48 hours to fix the issue.

"They have to get on top of it. It's not just frustrating - it could make selling my house difficult as I'd have a moral obligation to tell them about the issue."

Eastern Daily Press: Surface water is thought to infiltrate the sewer system, such as from this manhole cover in Mile RoadSurface water is thought to infiltrate the sewer system, such as from this manhole cover in Mile Road (Image: Owen Sennitt)

An Anglian Water spokeswoman said: “We are aware of the ongoing issues in Bunwell.

"We know surface water infiltrates that network when it rains, and there are misconnections from road drains and individual property downpipes too.

"Our upgrades have greatly improved the issue, but when the rain is exceptionally heavy, sometimes we still need to use tankers to take that excess water away and prevent homes from flooding.”

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Eastern Daily Press: John Chapman, chair of Bunwell Parish CouncilJohn Chapman, chair of Bunwell Parish Council (Image: Owen Sennitt)

At Bunwell Parish Council's monthly meetings, the issue frequently comes up and members have been trying to put pressure on Anglian Water to fix the problem for good to no avail.

Since 2004, the council say there have been no major improvements to the system despite promises by the then-CEO that a long-term solution would be found.

For John Chapman, chairman of Bunwell Parish Council, it is not good enough.

"It's completely unacceptable that residents are having toilets back up and raw sewage flood their homes and gardens," he said.

"Urgent work is clearly needed to protect individual properties by installing one-way valves, but also to prevent surface water from entering the vacuum system in the first place."