Wessex Water has announced that it will be spending £9.5 million on upgrading equipment used to treat sewage at its wastewater recycling plant near Bridgwater in Somerset. The centre will also have increased capacity to store excess water that flows through the system during intense rainfall.
The Bridgwater Mercury reports that the work will start shortly to increase the capacity of the site near North Petherton to 800,000 litres of sewage water. This will reduce instances of raw sewage discharge into rivers and mitigate against the risk of flooding. The upgrading work is expected to take about 10 months to complete.
Wessex Water project manager Victoria Plummer said: “Upgrading the North Petherton centre means we can further enhance the way we store and treat wastewater before it is returned to the environment in Somerset. ”
She added: “The increased storage capacity will help to reduce the amount of times storm overflows operate and these projects also help to further protect the environment by improving the health of our watercourses, such as rivers and streams. ”
“While the centre is the other side of the M5 motorway from the town itself, because this is a significant upgrade we’ve worked hard with the local community to ensure any disruption to local routes is kept to a minimum.”
“We have a dedicated temporary access route, which will be reinstated afterwards, to take most heavy construction vehicles and avoid North Petherton itself and while some rights of way will be affected to ensure the work can be completed safely, we’re also manning some areas to ensure walking routes can remain accessible.”
Wessex Water is investing a total of £25m to improve its facilities throughout Somerset. There has been growing outrage over the scale of pollution of the UK’s waterways in recent years. A recent review found that just 14% of the country’s rivers were considered to be clean and healthy.
Some water companies have been repeatedly criticised and fined by the Environmental Agency over the volume of sewage discharges into rivers from storm overflows. Thousands of episodes of storm overflow discharges around the country have been found to be in breach of regulations.
Water companies have claimed that more frequent extreme weather events and outdated Victorian sewage systems are partly responsible for the current situation. The government has introduced targets for water companies to upgrade their facilities and increase capacity by 2050, with stricter targets for more environmentally sensitive sites.
However, campaigners have criticised the targets as not going far enough as most companies continue to fail to meet sewage pollution targets. Recently, 57 swimmers at a World Triathlon Championship Series event in Sunderland fell ill with vomiting and diarrhoea after swimming in the sea off Roker Beach.
The water was found to contain dangerous levels of E.coli, which is a known cause of gastroenteritis. The event organisers are now conducting their own investigation into water quality.
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