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Thames Water to produce fertiliser from waste

October 21, 2010 at 4:48 am

Thames Water has announced that it will be starting up a new process of producing eco-friendly fertiliser from sewage. The process will take place in a waste water facility in Slough, and follows on from a successful experiment in North America.

The process involves recycling excess nutrients in the water into environmentally-safe fertiliser. It reuses natural resources as well as creating a product that is safe for the environment, leading many to dub it the perfect solution.

The Slough plant has been running a pilot scheme since March, and it will now go into full-scale production of the fertiliser. Thames Water will partner with Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies, a Canadian firm, and the facility should be up and running by the middle of 2011. The project will cost in the region of £2 million.

The process works by removing struvite from sewage which contains ammonia and phosphorus, and then converting this into natural fertiliser. This will be the first time the process has taken place in Europe. The plant will produce 150 tonnes of fertiliser a year, which will go by the name of Crystal Green and will be sold around the country.

On top of the benefits of the renewable product, Thames Water will also be saving £130,000 to £200,000 a year in chemical dosing costs which are necessary to clean up the build-up of struvite.

Reserves of phosphorus are running out around the world, with some experts predicting that mineral sources could run out completely in the next 30 years. This new technique could therefore become a very important way to produce a renewable solution to the problem.

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Complaints about local water company double

October 15, 2010 at 3:01 am

Despite customer complaints about the service provided by Sutton and East Surrey Water company doubling in the last year, bosses at the company deny that the service they are providing is steadily worsening. With the company supplying water to around 270,000 customers, company bosses know that they are required to provide an outstanding service to the consumers they are responsible for, or else risk losing their custom to rival suppliers.

With other rival water companies managing to see the number of complaints they receive dropping, Sutton and East Surrey water company need to ensure that they can begin to improve the service they provide to ensure it is up to the standard of their closest rivals.

However, Customer Services Director Steve George has defended the service provided by Sutton and East Surrey water company, suggesting that the 2007 merger that took place between the two companies had a massive impact on the new structure of the supplier: “We had a massive challenge when two water companies merged to deliver a new in-house customer service centre, and have worked closely with the CCW to continually improve our service to customers since then”.

Whilst this may have been seen as a valid excuse even back in 2009, the fact that nearly three years have passed since the merger means that time is rapidly running out for this excuse to have any real resonance with consumers.

Having said all this, whilst the very notion of complaints doubling initially sounds like an extremely damaging claim, Sutton and East Surrey Water have been quick to suggest that this merely represents the number of complaints rising from 25 to 50, a figure which could surely look far worse in comparison to the number of customers they’re responsible for.

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Thames release super sewer plans

October 13, 2010 at 2:45 am

Thames Water has released a 14-week public consultation on plans to build a super sewer at an estimated cost of £3.6 billion to reduce sewage discharges into the River Thames.

Backed by the government, the Thames tunnel will run for 20 miles at a depth of 75 metres. It will start in west London following the route of the river heading east of Tower Bridge.

But building the tunnel could result in bill increases of around £60-65 per year for Thames Water customers.

However, the environment secretary Caroline Spelman said that the tunnel offered “the most cost-effective solution” to the “unacceptable problem of raw sewage being regularly discharged into the Thames”.

Ms Spelman said that she recognised the tunnel came “at a significant cost” but that she would ensure the department for environment, food and rural affairs (DEFRA) and the water services regulation authority (OFWAT) “continue to scrutinise the costs” so that Thames Water’s proposals “represent proper value for money”.

London has trebled in size since 1850 and its Victorian sewer network is no longer big enough to cope with a 21st century city that is continuing to grow, said Thames Water.

And Thames Water explained that the 57 overflow points situated along the river were built during the 19th century to prevent sewage backing up into the streets when full. But now they discharge sewage into the Thames after just 2mm of rain which happens once a week on average.

Public exhibitions are currently being held across London until October 22 allowing Londoners to have their say on the plans for the tunnel. Construction of the tunnel is set to start in 2013 and end in 2020. For more information visit Thames Tunnel Consultation.

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UK waters shown to be recovering from acid rain damage

October 1, 2010 at 2:31 pm

A report from the Acid Waters Monitoring Network (AWMN) has stated that waters in the UK are now beginning to recover from acid rain damage. Initial summaries of the report have, however, concluded that it will be many more years before all the surrounding plant and pond life are fully recovered.

Researchers have been keen to stress that this is only the beginning of the recovery and that there is still a large distance to go. The brown trout and salmon in the UK have started to re-appear in previously acidic sites but have not fully recovered from the acid rain damage to their populations, and nor has much of the affected plant life, insect species and snail populations.

Going further than this, Emeritus Professor Rick Battarbee, of UCL, who played a part in the research, said, “we still have a very long way to go to return these systems to full health, and there is real concern that a full recovery might be prevented by climate change.” For these reasons it has not yet been possible to predict when a full recovery can be expected, if at all.

Fears are rife that any significant climate change may affect recovery and this could mean further controls on dangerous gases need to be put in place. Research of this kind is likely to provide a further drive to Defra who are playing an important role in deals such as the EU National Emission Ceilings Directive and the Gothenburg Protocol.

The key policies for acid rain reduction were put into effect in the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher’s government and this new research has proved them to be successful. Discussing the recovery, environmental minister, Lord Henley, was also looking to the future and said that this “demonstrates the opportunity we have to build on this success through forthcoming international agreements that will allow us to return damaged rivers and lakes to a healthy state.”

The Acid Waters Monitoring Network is a Defra funded network of groups that has been responsible for research regarding acid rain damage throughout the UK. These groups were vital to the success of measuring change and the effectiveness of environmental policies. Professor Battarbee backed these sentiments adding that these reports “illustrate the importance of high quality, long-term ecological networks that we need to monitor, measure and model environmental change.”

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