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The World of Wessex Water

25 Mar 2020 9:02 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

A few weeks ago, I was finalizing details for an upcoming trip to Paris and Bath, UK when I received an email from Natalie reminding me that I was due for a Blog post for the RMWQAA website.  It just so happened that I was simultaneously looking at a map of the small town of Saltford where the Airbnb I had booked for the trip was located. Less than a mile from the cottage was the Saltford Treatment Works.   “Brilliant idea!” I thought to myself.   I hoped I could pop over to the wastewater plant and see how the Brits are doing things.  I did some searching online, found Wessex Water on Facebook, and sent a message.  They were happy to arrange a tour of their facility for me.  Splendid!

Wessex Water is a district that serves about 2.8 million people in the areas of Bristol, Bath, Somerset, Dorset and nearby areas.  These cities are all in southwest England, west of London, and bordering Wales.  Although Wessex runs like a district, it is owned by YTL Power International out of Malaysia.

On the morning of my visit, I drove past the Avon River where Wessex Water discharges.  Due to a storm named Henry, the river had recently topped its banks and flooded the road so I felt lucky to have a clear day for the Assistant Treatment Manager Julian Collins to show me around.

Originally built in 1914, the Saltford Treatment Works originally had four (4) basins made of brick. They are still in use today.   Across the pond, they report in Liters per Second, which meant I had to do some conversions to figure out the facility’s current capacity.   Side note:  When looking for conversion calculators, I discovered there are American gallons and English gallons.  Plant capacity is between 11 and 13 MGD depending on which factors you use.   

Much of the treatment is the same as in Colorado.  The difference is they have combined sewer and storm systems.  Large dedicated basins catch the overflow and provide containment during rain events.  Their Environment Agency regulates the industry and has minimum and maximum “consents” comparable to permit limits of similar capacity facilities.  


Their Guidance Document details permit regulations.

In contrast to the older, smaller Saltford plant is the Wessex Water Operations Center in Bath also within the Wessex District.  The district runs all operations from their state-of-the-art green building, built using as much recycled material as possible.  The building is equipped with solar power heating, rainwater collection and use, and eco-friendly everything!  Security is top notch too. They even use fingerprint and retina scans. 

Wessex Water’s sister company, Geneco, operates multiple liquid waste treatment facilities that handle a variety of industrial and domestic wasteloads including dairy, septic, industrial cleaning products, landfill leachate, and food waste.  All residents have a food waste bin that is put out for regular collection along with the recycle and rubbish bins each week.   Food waste goes to the main facility in Bristol for large scale composting.  Sludge from the Saltford Treatment Works is also processed in Bristol for later biosolids application and generation of power from biogas. 

There’s much more to Wessex Water and all of their operations, but I will have to check out the rest on my next visit.  In the meantime, it’s great to have new colleagues and contacts across the pond.  Cheers!

Map taken from WessexWater.org

Michelle Neilson, Water Quality Technician, has been with Metro Wastewater for over 11 years.  She has a B.S. in Chemistry, and has 22 years of experience in the Environmental field.  Michelle has worked for USGS, contract laboratories, and several municipal wastewater and drinking water labs prior to Metro Wastewater. 

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