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  • Pioneering algae project with university

    A collaborative research project between ourselves and the University of Bath is investigating using algae as a natural and sustainable way to treat wastewater.


    We've teamed up with the university's Water Innovation and Research Centre (WIRC @ Bath) to create algae ponds to remove nutrients from wastewater, while also generating a valuable by-product.

    The team, led by Dr Tom Arnot in the university's department of chemical engineering and Professor Rod Scott in the department of biology and biochemistry, is investigating utilising algae ponds to treat wastewater and reduce levels of phosphorus.

    Managing phosphorus - a major challenge

    Phosphorus is a non-renewable resource present in human waste and used in detergents, agricultural fertilisers and cleaning products. It is also a water pollutant which can cause both environmental and economic damage.

    Removing phosphorus from water bodies has become an increasingly key concern for the UK's water utility companies, with pressure from the Environment Agency to find new solutions due to the Water Framework Directive.

    When phosphorus levels become too high in the environment, eutrophication can occur. High phosphorus causes an increase in algal blooms and other aquatic plants, which leads to a depletion in oxygen levels within rivers and streams as well as the potential release of toxins from the algae.

    This phenomenon results in a significant loss of plant, insect and fish species and an overall less healthy watercourse.

    A new approach for the UK

    The current trial aims to use a 'managed eutrophication' approach to address this problem. 

    Rather than allowing wastewater to release nutrients which encourages algae to grow in the watercourse and cause damage, algae are grown at the sewage treatment works in a managed way and removed before the water enters the river.

    This results in "polished" wastewater that can then be released into the river, plus algae biomass which can be recovered and used as a resource.

    To achieve this, a pilot High-Rate Algal Pond (HRAP) system has been installed at our sewage treatment works in Beckington, Somerset.

    Wessex Water environmental scientist Jane Youdan explained: "HRAPs could offer an environmentally friendly, chemical-free, sustainable and economical way of removing phosphorus from wastewater.

    "This is due to the approach utilising a naturally occurring process and removing the need to buy, transport and store costly chemicals. 

    "Depending on the use of the algal slurry, the technology also offers a means to recycle and re-use phosphorus as fertiliser."

    More information about the project can be found here .    


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