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Following 4 years of joint work by Yorkshire Water, Gurney Environmental and Stantec, the construction of the new Aero-Fac® WWTP at Withernsea will be a significant departure from the past. The decision by Yorkshire Water to select this highly innovative and incredibly low OPEX technology is a strong endorsement for selecting what are truly sustainable options for use in the UK to meet the future challenges of the water industry and climate change.

20 years ago in 2000, Gurney Environmental and project-partner Montgomery Watson (now Stantec) developed the design for the first Aero-Fac plant in the UK for Tayside Regional Council at Errol, Scotland. Since that time, additional Aero-Fac systems built in the UK have consistently proven the robustness and long-term efficiency and sustainability of the technology.

 That same team of Gurney Environmental and Stantec worked with Yorkshire Water to develop Yorkshire's first Aero-Fac system. The 15,000 PE wwtp at Withernsea will be the largest in the UK, and was selected in place of the activated sludge plant that had been initially proposed.

Meeting the Challenges of Climate Change

Aero-Fac is uniquely suited to meet the many challenges of climate change with an extremely low carbon footprint, dramatic energy savings, no sludge production or handling, plus energy-free disinfection, thereby making effluent suitable for irrigation water re-use or safe-bathing waters whether discharged to river or sea.

As an example, the UV system typically required by the Environment Agency was engineered out of the Withernsea WWTP as a result of monitoring carried out by Stantec at other Aero-Fac wastewater treatment plants around the UK that demonstrated that the wwtp had met the discharge requirements without the need for UV.

The unique combination of inherent disinfection provided by stabilisation ponds, enhanced by the continual mixing provided by Gurney Environmental's unique wind powered SERIES 3s aerator/mixers ensure that cell contents are repeatedly exposed to the sun for natural UV kill. This inherent benefit combined with longer retention/stabilisation times produces an effluent that is safe for irrigation reuse, which according to the EU and various articles and papers on climate change, is going to be needed in the future. This also has the advantage where wastewater treatment systems can operate with better disinfection capabilities and require smaller or even no tertiary disinfection.

Additionally, the new WWTP at Withernsea will have no need for sludge removal, meaning no tanker movement and the impact on traffic this brings.

Construction to Start

Yorkshire Water recently announced that the construction contract for their Withernsea Wastewater Treatment Works has been awarded to Ward and Burke. (Click Here to read the official announcement.) The work is part of a £26 million scheme to move the existing wastewater treatment works further inland due to coastal erosion.

Mark Allsop from Yorkshire Water said: “This is a substantial investment in the Withernsea area and we’ve previously given assurances that the new treatment works is not expected to have any impact on residents in respect of noise and odour.”

The Withernsea Aero-Fac® will be the first new wwtp constructed by Yorkshire Water in about 20 years and underscores their commitment to using highly sustainable technology that can reduce total 20-year operating costs (OPEX) by 70-90% as compared to often used conventional activated sludge options.

The Search for Sustainability

Yorkshire Water had spent considerable time and effort researching various options, but saw excellent benefits from the well-proven and time-tested Aero-Fac® technology, especially after a visit to an Aero-Fac® wwtp in Cambridgeshire, which has been running successfully for over a decade. When the new construction was announced for Withernsea, this is what Yorkshire Water had to say.

Withernsea Wastewater Treatment Works (WwTW) is located to the south of Withernsea, close to the village of Hollym. Since 2015, we’ve engaged with stakeholders and local residents on a long term solution. The new Aero-Fac® technology as supplied by Gurney Environmental will be more sustainable and has a much lower carbon footprint as it uses little energy and is able to treat the wastewater to an excellent standard. The work is expected to start on the new treatment works in the Spring of 2020 and completed in the Summer of 2021.

Yorkshire Water’s Communications Advisor John Bond went on to say:

“Our proposal is a step away from traditional treatment works and means we are opting for a much greener, more environmentally friendly option. The new proposal means construction times will be reduced, traffic movements can be minimised and once finished, the site will be virtually noise free. In addition, visual impacts and the risk of odour will be greatly reduced.”

Time-Proven Technologies

Yorkshire Water’s Bond continued:

“Our existing facility in Hollym, near Withernsea needs to be replaced as it is now only 40 metres from the sea due to rapid coastal erosion in the area. By building a new treatment facility inland, we’re able to look at new, alternative options for treating the town's wastewater, and we feel Gurney Environmental’s experience and track record provide us with the best solution for both ourselves and our customers for the future.”