Water & Wastewater Treatment

WWT March 2020

Water & Wastewater Treatment Magazine

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Page 21 of 35

22 | XXXXX 20XX | WWT | www.wwtonline.co.uk In Focus A s the water industry gears up for the next AMP7 investment period, which starts in April, there are many challenges which lay ahead, particularly when it comes to improving performance across the board. One key area for water and sewage companies is the performance of Britain's increasingly-aged sewer infrastructure, which has to contend with an increasing population, extreme weather conditions and a multitude of unflushable objections. The Environment Agency's (EA) 2019 annual report on England's water and sewage companies did not make for pleas- ant reading, with Northumbrian Water being the only one to get the highest four- star rating. The report also noted that serious its war on sewer blockages. According to the firm, wipes caused 64 per cent of the 15,600 blockages found in Northumbrian Water's network last year. "At the moment, people are treating their toilet like a bin, flushing things like wipes, which are a massive problem that we have to deal with dozens of times a day," says Northumbrian Water's Mark McCone. "Because they don't break down quickly, they settle in pipes of all sizes and also snag and collect with other items - most of which should never be in the sewer in the first place - and cause block- ages," he added. Getting the message out United Utilities is one of a growing number of water companies to take part in "fly-on-the-wall" style documentaries. The firm's drainage and strategy planning manager, Tony Griffiths says they have been very useful in getting the message across to some customers. "Four or five years ago, we took part in a "fly-on-the-wall" documentary programme which was shown on BBC2, which highlighted many issues of sewer misuse," explains Griffiths. "Last year, we were approached by a production company for Channel 5 and we are currently filming a second series of Sewermen with them, which will be shown later in the year. "The television crew follow the day- to-day work of our team as they carry Sewer management enters the next stage As the sector enters a new era, the issue of sewer management is rising up the agenda, with utilities using everything from artificial intelligence to reality television shows to get the 'three p's' message across. 22 | MARCH 2020 | WWT | www.wwtonline.co.uk pollution incidents increased in 2018, causing damage to the rivers and wildlife, and overall company performance had "deteriorated", reversing the trend of gradual improvement in the sector since the EA's rating system started in 2011. In addition to the annual EA survey, Ofwat has also thrown down the gauntlet with its PR19 price determinations, which were published in December and included a demand to cut pollution incidents by 12 per cent over the next five years. Water and sewage companies have responded to the challenge of improving the UK's sewer networks in a number of ways. Staff at Northumbrian Water have developed a range of new tools, includ- ing a spiked metal piece of kit called the Porcupine to catch wet wipes, as part of United Utilities took part in a documentary which highlighted many issues of sewer misuse.

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