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water treatement Gillingham
Gillingham’s water recycling centre.

Protection of the precious environment in the Gillingham area is being significantly stepped up courtesy of a £3 million investment to help safeguard the River Stour, says water utility Wessex Water.

An eight-month project at the water recycling centre in the south west of the town, which the company says will see the capacity to store water following heavy storms almost doubled and beefed-up equipment for monitoring the chemicals within sewage installed, gets under way this month.

Wessex Water’s seven-figure scheme will reduce the instances of storm overflows operating automatically to relieve the threat of overwhelmed sewers flooding homes and businesses following heavy rainfall, by keeping more mixed runoff and wastewater in tanks at the centre before it is treated and returned to the environment later.

When completed, nearly 1.2 million litres of this storm water – more than double the current amount – will be able to be stored at the site prior to treatment, helping to enhance the health of the nearby River Stour.

The work is part of Wessex Water’s £3 million a month investment in tackling storm overflows. The company says more than £150 million is being spent between now and 2025 to help complete nearly 100 projects to reduce the operation of storm overflows by a quarter, while supporting the environment.

It comes hot on the heels of similar Dorset projects which include a £4 million upgrade of the water recycling centre at Wimborne – also helping to protect the River Stour – and a further £1.8 million being spent on the site at Ringwood on the Hampshire border

Wessex Water project manager Jason Gammon said: ‘Our Gillingham centre currently treats wastewater from a population equivalent of 16,000 and future developments in and around the town mean that volume is likely to increase in the coming years.

‘By installing a new inlet balance tank, which captures incoming sewer flow, and a storm water storage tank, we can ensure that more of this water is treated before being returned to the environment and reduce the operation of storm overflows kicking in automatically when heavy storms threaten to overwhelm the sewer system.

‘Storing more combined surface and foul water from heavy rainfall and then treating it after the event is just one way in which we are progressively reducing the automatic operation of storm overflows.

‘In addition, fresh equipment at the centre will continue to monitor chemicals such as ammonia and phosphorous within the wastewater discharging from the centre, ensuring it meets the standards set out by the Environment Agency. ‘

The scheme, which is taking place entirely within the boundaries of the current water recycling centre, is expected to be completed by February of next year.

Wessex Water says it is committed to ‘progressively eliminating the discharge of untreated sewage into rivers and the sea’.

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