Water treatment works wins landscape beauty award

Northumbria Water's new Water Treatment Works has won an award for the way its design minimises the impact it has on the surrounding landscape.

The works, at Wearhead, County Durham includes 16,000 new trees in two hectares of woodland, two km of new footpaths and has made use of local materials and skills in its construction.

Built in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the £34 million scheme has now won the CIWEM 2005 World of Difference Award.

Justin Taberham, Director of Policy at CIWEM said: “A scheme such as this needs to be handled with care, balancing the needs of water-users and the environment. We were impressed with the amount of consideration that went into the planning of the Wearhead Water Treatment Works right from the start. Rather than just not harming this landscape of national significane by the scheme, the project team actively sought to make a positive contribution to the area.”

After an early environmental impact assessment, Northumbrian Water obliged the principal contractor and sub-contractors to implement a site environmental management system in accordance with BS ISO 14001. Accreditation was given and successfully maintained through six-monthly external audits.

As a result of the EMS was that a decision was made to provide a concrete batching plant on site, saving 956 deliveries and a distance of 81,060km in traffic movement, thus avoiding the emission of 217.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Local craftspeople were recruited to construct the new dry-stone walling and slate roof, and recycled materials including timber, stone, slates and process plant and equipment were sourced and used where appropriate.

The impact on the surrounding area was minimised by giving the buildings the appearance of an upper Weardale farmstead and maintaining the natural vista as far as possible by burying nearly one third of the water treatment facility in the hillside. Although over 60,000 cubic metres of rock and soil had to be excavated for this, no material was removed from the site, rather it was crushed and used as construction backfill and sub-base materials. Surplus soil was utilised in the landform design.

In addition, the works includes a turbine on the inlet to utilise renewable energy from the raw water to generate up to 200KW of power.

John Robson of Northumbrian Water said: “We embarked on this project with a view that the construction of a Water Treatment Works in this type of location should not only demonstrate “good practice”, but will be referred to in the future as an example of “best practice”. I think that the CIWEM award shows we have been judged by our peers to have achieved our aim.”

By David Hopkins

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