Keeping metals and chemicals out of wastewater to protect the environment

Protecting the environment


We’re working on new ways to keep metals and chemicals out of wastewater.

Making sure fewer chemicals get into the environment is better for our rivers, the biodiversity around it and our communities. We need to look to new, affordable and sustainable treatments for removing trace pollutants, called emerging contaminants, from our wastewater. The work we’re doing in the Bluewave innovation team, with collaboration and engagement across a range of partners, is helping us do this.

Understanding trace pollutants so that we can tackle them
Our Chemical Investigations Programme is giving us a deeper understanding of trace pollutants and their impact. As a result, we can get a clearer idea of where to focus our efforts and design strategies when we don’t have an end-of-pipe solution, or where more sustainable approaches are possible. For some of the emerging pollutants, there are no reliable treatment options currently available. Tackling these new contaminants is challenging and we need strategies now to address their impact and plan for the future.

The Bluewave team’s approach
We’re using catchments - or the areas of land where water drains through to our water sources - enabling us to deliver more sustainable ways to protect our customers and the environment. The team have been working to explore how we might prevent pollutants from entering the wastewater network in catchments, as well as using sustainable approaches in our business plan. The unique value of this approach was a creative, stepwise process to look into the problem, seeing what might be possible for groups of contaminants. Our approach evaluates sources and pathways, types of catchments and prioritised substances.

Evaluating the options and taking the next steps
The proposed solution, developed in partnership with Atkins Global, is to have 15 viable catchment options grouped into three core strategies and a selection approach using regulatory drivers and target outcomes. The options are evaluated in terms of regulation, partnerships, collaboration and engagement across the spectrum of pollutant sources - from trade effluent and drainage to domestic sources.

The next step is to trial the strategies and look at how to best implement them. Because pollutant sources and pathways are interconnected, we’ll use behavioural design as a social scientific approach to permit compliance, in addition to purely scientific treatment and monitoring.

If you’d like to learn more about the Metals and Chemicals project or share an idea for a new product or process, please drop us an email: [email protected]

The Bluewave Team