The battle to protect the ecology of waterways around the Dorset/Wiltshire border is being stepped up a level courtesy of an £8 million investment in the two counties in 2024, says Wessex Water.
Sewage treatment sites at both Shaftesbury in north Dorset and Mere, across the border in south Wiltshire, are being upgraded to ensure that the wastewater that arrives there continues to be properly dealt with before being safely released back to the environment.
New equipment to help to reduce the impact of potentially harmful chemicals found in sewage from homes and businesses will be installed as Wessex Water continues to invest millions of pounds across its region to help safeguard the health of rivers and watercourses.
Some £5 million is being invested into a year-long scheme at the water recycling centre just south of Shaftesbury – the work will focus on tackling the issues caused by chemicals like phosphorus, ammonia and nitrogen, concentrations of which are often found within sewage arriving at water recycling centres.
Farm slurries, agricultural fertilisers and septic tanks are a regular source of these nutrients, which are also found in many household products, and can cause large growths of algae in waterways such as streams and rivers.
This algae damages plants and animals in those areas by depleting the amount of oxygen in the water – a process known as eutrophication.
The Shaftesbury enhancement will continue until December of this year and project manager Jim Wheeler said: ‘By completing this work we will be able to ensure we help to protect the environment around Shaftesbury by stripping chemicals out of the wastewater that arrives.
‘We’ll be carrying out this work within our existing water recycling centre and upgrading many of the treatment processes at the site to ensure we’re continuing to meet the highest environmental standards.’’
More than £3 million is being invested towards reducing these chemicals from entering a tributary of the River Stour – Shreen Water – near the Mere site.
The projects continue what Wessex Water calls its ‘commitment towards protecting the environment close to the border between both counties’, with millions of pounds already invested in the last 12 months.
The water recycling centre near the village of Bourton is being enhanced by a £4 million investment that will boost the capacity to treat arriving sewer flows, reducing instances of untreated wastewater being discharged automatically.
A £3 million investment in the water recycling centre at Gillingham is doing likewise, while further south more than £7 million is being invested at Ringwood and Wimborne to protect waterways such as the Stour and Avon.
Mere project manager Jason Gammon said: ‘As our population increases, the challenge to prevent nutrients from causing damage to our waterways increases and we can help meet that challenge by upgrading the treatment processes at our water recycling centres.
‘Removing chemicals from wastewater can help to protect nearby rivers and streams and Wessex Water is investing hundreds of millions of pounds to do just that throughout rural environments across the region.’’
The company has also proposed a commitment of more than £900 million towards stripping out nutrients from wastewater as part of around £3.5 billion of new investment between 2025 and 2030 – more than double the current five-yearly spend – in its recently-published Business Plan.
The plans will be considered by industry regulators Ofwat before a decision next year.