Metal thieves damage Bishop Auckland flood defence
Thieves hunting for scrap metal have been blamed for damaging a County Durham flood defence.
The Environment Agency's £8.8m Spring Gardens dam protects 660 properties in Bishop Auckland from flooding from the River Gaunless.
It said metal hinges and catches from the gate of the dam had been removed with the cost of the damage put at £3,000.
It is urging people to be vigilant and report any damage to the dam.
Agency operations delivery team leader Paul Constantine said: "I'm shocked that people would put others in danger to steal hinges which are probably just sold as scrap.
"The frustrating thing is that the cost to repair the damage far outweighs the value of the stolen metal, and the bill has to be picked up by the taxpayer."
He said metal thieves had targeted the dam before by stealing stainless steel beams, used to regulate the flow of water upstream.
It is trying to find new parts to carry out the repairs as soon as possible.