New intelligent sewer technology is being pioneered by Thames Water in Henley-on-Thames to prevent pollution from blockages caused by cooking fat and wet wipes.
The UK’s biggest water company is trialling the next generation of sewer level monitors, which send data to help pinpoint emerging problems before they grow into blockages that can cause flooding and pollution.
More than 300 smart devices have rolled off the production line and are being put to the test in real-world conditions in Henley, West Ham and Harlesden in London.
In 2017 a huge fatberg was found under Hart Street in Henley town centre. The road was closed for several days as Thames Water engineers successfully cleared the blockage.
Backing the trial, Henley town and county councillor Stefan Gawrysiak said: “Anything that will indicate that there’s a blockage or fatberg building up has got to be a good thing. Digging up the road is hugely disruptive to commerce and transport, and from my science background it sounds like an incredibly good, technological, solution.”
The upgraded monitors are fixed under manhole covers and measure the depth of wastewater underneath.
Rising water can signal a blockage is forming in the pipe, normally caused by fat poured down the sink or wet wipes flushed down the toilet. Blockages can also be caused by debris and tree roots.
Compared to older monitors, the new devices will help Thames Water build a digital model of the network in the trial zones, giving a much clearer picture of what is happening underground.
Anna Boyles, Thames Water operations manager, said: “We’re industry leaders in harnessing the latest digital tech to find and fix blockages and leaks before they affect customers or the environment.
“These new sewer level monitors are the very latest bits of kit – they’ve only just come onto the market.”
On average, Thames Water spends £18 million (€20.4 million) every year clearing 75,000 blockages from its sewers, unclogging five house blockages and removing 30 tonnes of material from just one of its sewage works every day.
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