Work has begun on a £3.45 million Thames Water project to upgrade the treatment processes at the Marlborough sewage works – all part of its Care for the Kennet campaign to improve the quality of water in the River Kennet.
The vital upgrade programme, due to be completed in February, will also make the works more resilient in the event of heavy rain and will allow for future predicted housing development and population growth in the area.The scheme is part of Thames’ community-based care campaign to protect the environmental health of the river, which is backed by local group Action for the River Kennet (ARK), the Angling Trust, WWF-UK and the water company.
Until the recent rains dramatically changed the landscape, the Kennet was suffering from one of its worst droughts with sections of the river becoming totally dry and fish stocks disappearing.
Richard Lewis, the Thames Water project manager responsible for the scheme, told Marlborough News Online: “Until now our Care for the Kennet campaign has focused on urging people to use tap water wisely: ‘the less we use the more there’ll be in the river’, and all that.”
“As well as continuing to be water-wise, we must also recognise that this upgrade is just as important in achieving our aim of enhancing and safeguarding the long-term environmental health of the iconic River Kennet, its fish and all the bugs, birds and other wildlife that call it home.”
He added: “Even though the hosepipe ban has been lifted, we would still urge everyone to continue to use water wisely in order to further protect the health of this world-renowned chalk stream.”
The project at Marlborough sewage works involves enlarging the site’s inlet works, where sewage from local households first enters the works.
Engineers will also add in a high-tech new treatment process, a nitrifying sand filter, in which bacteria grows that converts ammonia in sewage into nitrate, as well as filtering out any solids.
The final part of the upgrade will be building a third new storm tank to act as an additional overflow chamber when heavy rain results in more water entering the works than it can cope with.
A third tank will provide additional capacity, significantly reducing the chances of heavily diluted storm sewage spilling into the river following exceptionally heavy rain on the rare occasions the tanks fill up and overflow.
Geoffrey Findlay, chairman of Action for the River Kennet, has given its backing to the project.
“We, of course, welcome any measure that will improve the state of the River Kennet,” he said. “And we support Thames Water’s campaign to encourage people to use water wisely, while continuing to press all concerned to address the issue of over-abstraction as soon as possible”