A North East water company is using rain, and not the water main, to help clear nasty blockages and keep the sewer network flowing freely for its customers.

Northumbrian Water has begun installing rainwater harvesting tanks around some of its larger offices, to collect and store rainfall from the roof of the buildings.

Capable of holding up to 2,300 litres each (or around 28 bath tubs full), the tanks are used by the company’s jetting fleet, who fill up their specialised vehicles with the rainwater, instead of using clean, drinking water to flush out the sewers.

In 2018, around 12,000 blockages had to be cleared across the North East, made up of things wrongly put down the drains, including wet wipes, fats, oils and greases.

Often these blockages can be cleared by shooting a jet of high-pressured water through the sewer network to break up the clog, which also cleans out the inside of the pipe to prevent further build-up and damage.

However, using drinking water isn’t the most sustainable method and while climate change threatens to limit water resources, it can also bring about more frequent flooding.

Part of the company’s ‘Rainwise’ initiative, the rainwater harvesting tanks can help on both fronts, collecting the rainfall ready for use when necessary, while freeing up the capacity in the network during storms.

The water company is also encouraging customers to get ‘Rainwise’ at home, by making small changes to homes and gardens that can help save water and manage rainfall locally, by adding water butts and rainwater planters.

Northumbrian Water’s Sustainable Sewerage Manager, Steena Nasapen-Watson, said, “Historically, we’ve filled up the tanks on our jet vans with clean water from water hydrants to help keep the sewers flowing freely, but this isn’t the most sustainable way to manage our network.

“Water is a precious resource and when it comes to clearing blockages in the drains, we don’t need to use high-quality drinking water. By adding these rainwater tanks, we can ensure the best use of water resources, storing storm water for when we need it.”

For more information about Northumbrian Water’s Rainwise initiative, see www.nwl.co.uk/rainwise.

Northumbrian Water is investing nearly £4 million to upgrade its wastewater treatment works in Northumberland.

The work at Wooler Sewage Treatment Works will help to increase its capacity and protect the environment, by ensuring sewage continues to be treated to the highest quality standards.

The announcement follows the news that the water company is investing a further £21 million in the area and also constructing a new water treatment works in Wooler, as well as a new water treatment works in Berwick.

Work is expected to begin in spring 2019 – around the same time that the work on the Wooler Water Treatment Works will begin, in order to help minimise disruption.

Northumbrian Water’s supply partners, Mott Macdonald Bentley, will carry out the work which is expected to take up to 16 months to complete. It will include the construction of additional tanks to cope with increasing populations and help the company to effectively treat the wastewater of customers in the area.

General upgrades and new treatment processes will also ensure that the wastewater is treated to the highest quality levels, before being returned to the environment, to help protect and improve rivers and coastal waters across the region.

Residents in Wooler are being invited to find out more information about both the water and sewage works and how the new projects will benefit them at a drop-in session on Monday December 10, 2018.

The project teams will be at the Cheviot Centre in Wooler between 5.00pm and 7.30pm to answer any questions residents may have.

Northumbrian Water’s Head of Asset Investment, John McGovern, said: “Between both water and sewage works projects, this is a major investment in Northumberland.

It’s important that we continue to invest in our infrastructure as populations grow so that we can continue to provide a reliable water and wastewater service into the future. By upgrading the sewage treatment works we can also ensure we’re treating water to the highest standards and can help improve the quality of local watercourses.”

Customers will not be affected while the work is carried out, although there may be an increase in volume of traffic to the sites.

Once work gets underway, residents will be able to follow the progress by visiting the Wooler sewage treatment works page on www.nwlcommunityportal.co.uk.

Some of the North East’s leading companies are once again coming together to offer an exciting opportunity for undergraduate students to work with them in the summer of 2019.

The 12-week paid summer placement programme will allow the students to work with Northumbrian Water, Esh-Stantec, Turner & Townsend, Interserve, MMB, and Wood rotating their time among the businesses.

Successful applicants will be paid a living wage while receiving invaluable skills and experience on real life construction projects.

Richard Woodhouse, Asset Investment Programme Manager at Northumbrian Water, said: 

“The first two years of our Shared Summer Placement programme have been a huge success and we’re really pleased to be able to open this opportunity up for a third year. This is a partnership featuring some great companies, all dedicated to supporting the workforce of the future and providing exciting opportunities for young people. Everyone is really looking forward to meeting some of the young people who are interested in engineering, project management, and the built and natural environment to help them to develop their experience and skills.”

The programme has the support of the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Association for Project Managers.

Applicants should send a CV and covering letter, which can be accompanied by a supporting Vlog if they choose, to NWG.academy@nwl.co.uk by noon on Friday, December 14, 2018.

Candidates must be available to work in the 12 week period from Monday, June 10, to Friday, August 30, 2019. Anybody interested in applying, who has questions, can address them to NWG.academy@nwl.co.uk.

Thirty-three of the North East’s 34 Bathing Waters have been labelled either ‘Excellent’ or ‘Good’ in the latest classifications announced today by Defra.

Twenty-four of the region’s bathing waters have met the ‘Excellent’ standard, nine are classified as ‘Good’.

Multi-agency work is ongoing at Cullercoats, the only bathing water area in the North East to not pass the standards, to identify and remedy the cause of a localised deterioration in quality resulting in its ‘Poor’ classification.

Compliance is based on the current and previous three years of sample data (a maximum of 80 samples per beach, from 2015 to 2018). The samples are taken by the Environment Agency between May and September each year to assess the bathing waters against the strict regulations.

Northumbrian Water’s Wastewater Director, Richard Warneford, said: “With more than two decades of investment having gone into improving bathing waters across the North East, it is very pleasing to see that 33 of our region’s 34 bathing waters have received ‘Excellent’ or ‘Good’ status for the 2019 season.

“We know that work to enhance areas of our network, such as storm water storage facilities, and to divert surface water away from sewers through our Rainwise initiative, will have had a positive impact on these results and we will continue to drive improvements.

“At the turn of the Century, the North East had only four bathing waters that achieved the standards in place at the time, so it’s plain to see how far we have come and these results are something we and our partners can be proud of – the North East is a fantastic place for a visit to the beach!”

“At Northumbrian Water, we place the environment at the heart of everything we do, so we are very proud of the partnership work and investment that has led to today’s results and to making our beaches great places to visit.”

A joint investigation between the Environment Agency, North Tyneside Council and Northumbrian Water is ongoing regarding the localised deterioration of bathing water quality at Cullercoats.
Richard Warneford added: “The investigation at Cullercoats has already ruled out a number of potential factors and the Environment Agency has continued testing outside of the normal bathing water season, with results that show some signs for optimism. However, the joint investigations and work will continue until the cause is identified and any work that can be done has been carried out.

“Already, this activity has identified and allowed proactive measures to be taken on a number of third party sites, as well as on parts of our network, that will help protect against potential future problems that could otherwise one day have a detrimental effect on the local environment.”

Fiona Morris, Environment Manager at the Environment Agency in the North East, added: “The North East remains a real success story of drastic improvements over the past 30 years. In 1988, nearly half of our bathing waters failed to meet mandatory standards and now almost all of them are good or excellent. This is great news and we’d encourage people to get out and enjoy our beautiful coastline!

“We work closely with our partners at local authorities and Northumbrian Water to understand what impacts on a particular bathing water’s quality and then carry out work to try to improve it; such work has already been done at Cullercoats and is continuing.

“Regarding Cullercoats, our DNA analysis has identified an impact of predominantly human source. We will be taking further bathing water samples throughout the winter months and we, and our partners, are committed in our efforts to identify the source, to understand how it is getting into the bay and resolve any impacts.”

North East bathing waters which have achieved the ‘excellent’ standard are Bamburgh Castle, Seahouses North, Beadnell, Newbiggin North, Low Newton, Warkworth, Amble Links, Druridge Bay North, Druridge Bay South, Newbiggin South, Blyth South, Seaton Sluice, Whitley Bay, Tynemouth Longsands North, Tynemouth Longsands South, Tynemouth King Edwards Bay, Seaburn (Whitburn North), Roker (Whitburn South), Seaham, Crimdon, Seaton Carew (Centre), Seaton Carew (North Gare), Marske Sands and Saltburn.

Those that have achieved the ‘good’ standard are Marsden, Spittal, South Shields, Seaham Hall, Seaton Carew (North), Redcar Coatham, Redcar Lifeboat Station, Redcar Granville and Redcar Stray.
Northumbrian Water is encouraging its customers to also help to look after the region’s bathing waters by only flushing toilet paper, pee and poo down the loo and by not putting grease and fat down drains. This will help to prevent blockages and potential pollution.

  • For more detailed information on these bathing water results go here and for statistics here.
  • Each bathing water will have to display a standardised symbol for its classification. The symbols and further information can be found here. If a bathing water is designated as poor it must also display the standardised ‘advice against bathing’ symbol.
  • The Environment Agency publishes information about water quality at England’s bathing waters on their online bathing water data explorer, which can be found here.