United Utilities has allocated £77.7m for investment in its wastewater treatment facility located in Burnley, with the aim of enhancing water quality in the River Ribble.

Demonstrating its dedication to enhancing river quality, the North West`s water company is undertaking a significant upgrade at the treatment plant. This initiative involves the implementation of new processes designed to augment treatment capacity and diminish the presence of phosphorus and other nutrients in the discharged water from the facility.

Scheduled for completion in summer 2025, the project holds significant importance in enhancing water quality within the River Calder, a vital tributary of the River Ribble.

Through this upgrade, the facility will bolster its capacity by 27%, effectively meeting the escalating demands from Burnley and its adjacent towns. Moreover, the introduction of additional stormwater storage will curtail the frequency of storm overflows during heavy rainfall episodes.

Commencing in 2021, the project has made substantial progress, with the bulk of construction activities concluded. Current efforts are concentrated on the installation of mechanical and electrical components.

Significant enhancements are underway to revamp the treatment processes at the facility, integrating cutting-edge technology to elevate the wastewater treatment to a superior standard.

Among these advancements is the implementation of an innovative technology utilising iron oxide particles, aimed at augmenting treatment capacity and diminishing nutrient levels, particularly phosphorus. Following treatment, the iron particles are retrieved through a magnetic drum for reuse within the process.

Senior Project Manager Tony Elliott said: “We know our customers want to see cleaner rivers and fewer occasions when untreated sewage is released into the environment. This project will tackle that problem – by storing more sewage in times of heavy rainfall, and by upgrading the treatment process itself so that the treated water released back into the River Calder around the clock is even cleaner.

“As well as increasing the capacity at the facility, we’re also introducing new processes which will speed up the treatment process.”

The Burnley upgrade forms a vital component of a broader initiative aimed at enhancing water quality in Pendle Water and the River Calder. This comprehensive project focuses on upgrading wastewater treatment facilities and minimising the frequency of storm overflow occurrences in the region.

Over the past five years, United Utilities has allocated over £330m for various projects spanning from infrastructure enhancements to riverside tree planting initiatives across Lancashire. These endeavours aim to enhance water quality in the River Ribble and its tributaries.

In its draft business plan for the period 2025 to 2030, United Utilities is proposing an unprecedented investment of £13.7bn. This substantial investment is intended to facilitate the delivery of cleaner rivers, more dependable water supplies, and additional support for customers facing financial challenges in the North West region.

The regulatory body will assess these proposals and provide its draft response by June 2024, with the final plans slated for agreement by December 2024.