Irish Water to invest €16m to upgrade four wastewater treatment plants

Irish Water, working in partnership with Sligo County Council, has announced it will invest approximately €16 million as part of the upgrade of four wastewater treatment plants in County Sligo,

The upgrade for Grange, Strandhill, Tubbercurry and Ballinafad.will bring benefits to the each of the towns and surrounding areas in terms of development potential, environmental protection and improved water quality.

Commenting on the project, Colm Claffey, Irish Water’s Programme Regional Lead said:

“The upgrade works will increase the treatment capacity of each of the plants to meet the current needs of the towns and to allow for growth. The works will also ensure that wastewater is treated and discharged in compliance with the Urban Wastewater Treatment Regulations 2001, and conditions set out in the Wastewater Discharge Licence (WWDL) issued by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“It will also improve the water quality of nearby coastal areas, protecting bathing areas and the aquatic environment from pollution.”

The contract, which was signed by Irish Water and Coffey Northumbrian Ltd last week, will see the work commence on site in February 2018. Irish Water expects the works to last for approximately 22 months and upon completion the newly upgraded wastewater treatment plants will serve a future population equivalent (PE) of 8,300.

Capital investment in the region of €700 million per year is needed for a sustained period of several decades to address the poor condition of Ireland’s water infrastructure. Works have been prioritised to address the most critical issues in line with commitments outlined in Irish Water’s Business Plan up to 2021.

Delivery of the business plan will involve a €5.5bn investment in capital spending on drinking water and wastewater quality and capacity and new infrastructure up to 2021 while achieving efficiencies of €1.6bn.

How to handle smart motorways

Here’s what you need to know about ‘all lane running’ motorways. Anyone who has spent time on the M25 or any other motorway of your choice will know that they’re getting seriously congested for more and more of the time. You have a three-lane motorway, and it’s full.

Adding another lane would be unbelievably expensive in terms of time and money and would be resisted on environmental grounds. So what can the authorities do? Well, there’s that hard shoulder sitting there with nobody in it. Let’s use that. That’s the thinking behind what are perhaps only semi-accurately called smart motorways. On the plus side you’ve just gained another whole lane with very little extra expense or environmental unpleasantness. On the minus side you’ve just stopped the hard shoulder being there in an emergency and you’ve introduced some potentially deadly confusion.

However, there are more than 20 stretches of smart motorway in England with more than that again either under construction or planned. So, it’s a ‘thing’ and we need to know how to deal with it. Which means we should first off define terms. Controlled motorway Like the western section of the M25, this is more like a normal motorway but cameras and signs can dictate the speed, which rises and falls according to the traffic flow. A regional traffic centre monitors and controls speed and traffic flow, and the hard shoulder remains for emergencies only. Hard shoulder running Junctions 7-9 of the M42 are examples of this. During peak periods the hard shoulder becomes a normal running lane. Gantries above indicate it’s open and what the speed limit is. If there is a red cross above that hard shoulder then it is closed to traffic except in an emergency. If you do have a problem then you should drive to one of the ERAs – Emergency Refuge Areas – which are at set intervals along the motorway. All lanes running Same as the hard shoulder running, but here it’s permanent. The hard shoulder is simply another running lane all the time, and if you have a problem you have to reach one of the ERAs. Is this a safe system? New stretches have ERAs up to 1.5 miles apart and that’s not a lot of use if you suffer a total blowout or your car simply dies through electronic gremlins. ERAs on earlier stretches were only 500-800m apart and that’s pretty reachable except in the worst of circumstances. There’s also the issue that emergency services have had to change the way they operate since they simply can’t come up the hard shoulder to get to the head of the queue and reach the accident, they have to stop the traffic and come down the motorway from the next ramp ahead.

From the driver’s point of view it’s important to remember to use the ERAs if you have an emergency, but you must not clog them up for anything less than a full-blooded emergency. Letting little Johnny out for a pee is not emergency enough. So the procedure if you have an emergency is to keep going if you can until you reach an ERA. This will be signposted with an orange SOS on a blue background. Once into the ERA switch on the hazard lights, get out of the car via the passenger door and use the phone to alert the control centre to your predicament. Keep behind the barrier until help arrives. If your car is roadworthy again, you must not leave the ERA until you have alerted the authorities. This is for your own safety since there isn’t enough room for you to get up to running speed before joining the motorway. The control centre will shut the hard shoulder section near you so you have the space to get safely back on the motorway.

And if you can’t make it to the ERA? Keep as far to the left as possible, park, put on hazards and lights and get out behind the barrier before contacting the emergency services and your breakdown cover provider. Another thing to bear in mind when running on a smart motorway is, if you see that the hard shoulder is blocked as a running lane, as indicated by a red X in the gantry above it, do not drive in it, and if you are in it move over as soon as is safe. There are plans to introduce fixed penalty fines for those who disobey the red X.

NI Water starts work on £7m renewable energy scheme

NI Water has started work on developing a solar farm to supply electricity to its Dunore Water Treatment works in South Antrim.

The £7 million project will involve work on a 33 acre site on the eastern shore of Lough Neagh and when completed will produce a peak output of 4.99 megawatts and is expected to save over £0.5m annually in energy costs to the company.

As well as meeting the energy needs of the Dunore WTW the project will also enable the company to contribute spare capacity to the grid.

NI Water is the province’s largest user of electricity and Dunore is its third largest site in terms of energy consumption accounting for 7% of the company’s annual usage.

Commenting on the announcement,  the water company’s CEO Sara Venning said:-

“As the largest user of electricity in N. Ireland, we are committed to limiting our impact on the environment. NI Water expects to increase our electricity consumption from renewable sources from currently around 13% to 40% in 2020/21. This project will make a significant contribution towards our ability to achieve that stretching goal.”

Approximately 30 people will be employed from local firm GRAHAM Construction throughout the contract. It is expected that all work will be completed by March 2018.

Sara Venning continued:

“NI Water recognises the opportunity that recent and future change in the electricity market and associated technologies represent. The Dunore Solar Farm is an important element in our strategy to deliver benefit for our customers and environment.”

NI Water has reduced its annual expenditure on electricity by £5 million over the last three years and it is expected that electricity from a renewable source at the Dunore site will contribute to its efforts to keep expenditure on energy at the lowest levels possible.

It will also assist the company in achieving the strategy outlined in its PC15 business plan which aims to see it reduce the production of greenhouse gases from operations and become more energy efficient.

Government urged to spend £200m on ‘high risk’ roads

Yorkshire Water starts work on £13.5m pipe flushing scheme

Yorkshire Water has embarked on a projected £13.5 million scheme to improve the taste and appearance of tap water by ‘flush’ cleaning large sections of its 31,000 kilometre underground pipe network.

The project, which is ongoing, will improve water quality by reducing the presence of natural sediment in water that over time can stick to the inner lining of old Victorian era cast iron pipes.

The deposits, such as iron and manganese, can if disturbed on occasion cause discoloured water to come out of taps.

To help prevent this, the multi-million pound scheme will involve specialist technicians systematically operating valves on water mains in thousands of streets across the region.

David Stevenson, Head of Water Distribution, said:

“Our mission is to provide water to people that is clean and safe to drink. Drinking water quality within Yorkshire is already excellent with 99.95% of around 500,000 water tests we carried out in the last year meeting the stringent standards set by the Drinking Water Inspectorate. However, this project will improve water quality even further.”

Yorkshire Water’s 31,000 kilometres of pipework includes sections of cast iron pipes, which over time can corrode and give an orange-brown discolouration. The water company is currently in the process of replacing hundreds of lead pipes in the network with modern plastic ones to ensure it continues to exceed water quality regulations.

Nearly three quarters of tap water in Yorkshire comes from rivers and reservoirs due to the topography of the region. The rest comes from underground aquifers, which are based mainly in Humberside.

Additional improvements to water quality are also being made by undertaking catchment management activity in areas where water is abstracted from reservoirs, rivers and underground aquifers. This involves working with farmers, landowners and other stakeholders to minimise the impact that naturally occurring nutrients have on water courses that requires expensive water treatment processes to remove.

Driverless cars on our roads by 2021

Driverless cars will be on the roads within three years as part of a multimillion-pound plan to help Britain lead a technological revolution post-Brexit.

The Chancellor will on Wednesday outline Budget plans to “turbo-charge” Britain’s tech industries – pumping investment into artificial intelligence, clean fuel technology and next generation 5G phones.

Funding will also go on more computer science teachers and technology skills training.

A source close to Philip Hammond said he wanted to Brexit-proof Britain and ensure the workforce of the future will be able to “enjoy the spoils” of the opportunities ahead.

He is expected to announce £75million for developing artificial intelligence, bold reforms for on-road testing to put driverless cars on Britain’s highways by 2021 and £400 million for electric vehicle charging points.

Another £100 million will boost clean car purchases, £160 million will go to nextgeneration 5G mobile networks across the UK, including £35 million to improve connectivity on trains, and £100 million for an additional 8,000 qualifi ed computer science teachers.

A further £76 million will boost digital and construction skills. The Government will change the regulations around driverless vehicles to allow developers to carry out test drives on the nation’s roads without a human operator for the first time in a bid to fasttrack the industry, forecast to be worth £28 billion to the economy by 2035, and support 27,000 jobs.

A new scheme will also be launched enabling organisations to explore ways of testing self-driving technology through digital simulation.

These measures will result in self-driving cars being on UK roads in as little as three years. A Treasury spokesman said the rollout would be subject to “stringent safety measures”.

It comes as Jaguar Land Rover and Tata Motors were last week revealed to have been testing new driverless models on the streets of Coventry.

Eric Schmidt, Google’s global ambassador, last night welcomed the move to triple the number of computer science teachers.

He said: “Advancing our students’ understanding of the principles and practices of computing is critical to developing a competitive workforce for the 21st century.

We need more students to leave school confident in skills like coding, algorithmic thinking, machine learning and cyber security.”

AI start-up companies will get an extra £20 million while £45 million will be spent increasing the number of new PhD students to 200 per year.

The Government will also establish a formal partnership with the CBI and TUC to oversee a £36 million National Retraining Scheme, to help adults get the skills they need to succeed in the new economy.

A further £40 million will be invested in construction skills.

Mr Hammond is expected to announce a stamp duty cut for first-time buyers and lift the cap on local authority borrowing to boost social housing. Changes to the planning regime are also expected.

Defra consults on developing national policy statement for water resources

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs has launched a major new consultation on the development of a national policy statement for water resources and the types of infrastructure that it will apply to.

In March this year, the government announced that it intended to develop a national policy statement (NPS) for water resources aimed at streamlining the planning application process to gain planning consents for nationally significant water resources infrastructure projects.

Defra is now seeking comments on its approach to developing a national policy statement for water resources and on proposals to amend the definition of nationally significant water infrastructure in the Planning Act 2008. The Department is presenting options on the sizes and types of infrastructure which could lead to amendments to the thresholds and definition of nationally significant water infrastructure in the Planning Act 2008 and calling for relevant evidence to support options.

The consultation document states:

“The public water supply in parts of the country is already exposed to an unacceptable level of risk of drought. There is potential for high economic losses from restrictions on business and public sector users during periods with the most severe level of restrictions on water use.”

“Without further action, parts of England will face a gap between demand for water and available supplies.”

Launching the consultation, Defra said that by the 2050s England is expected to face a water deficit of 8-22% of total water demand, commenting:

“Government is clear we must take ambitious action to reduce demand for water by being more water efficient. At the same time, new water resources will also be needed meaning that new large infrastructure such as reservoirs or water transfers will be part of the solution.”

“Achieving a step change in drought resilience will require ambitious action to reduce demand for water and the development of new water resources at both a regional and national scale.”

The role of the NPS is to present the national evidence base and demonstrate the need for new large scale water resource infrastructure.  It will also provide detailed guidance setting out the framework for decisions on new large water supply projects.

The consultation is in three specific parts:

  • The three principles Defra will use to guide the detailed development of the NPS itself;
  • Proposals to change the types and sizes of new water supply infrastructure that are defined as ‘nationally significant’ in the Planning Act 2008
  • The scoping reports that describe the approach Defra intends to take for the Assessment of Sustainability and Habitats Regulations Assessments that accompany the NPS.

The Planning Act 2008 already has a process in place for making planning decisions for wastewater infrastructure projects of national significance, together with other fields like energy and transport.

The consultation paper says this provides a clear framework for the examination and decision-making processes, which has the potential to accelerate the process. However, the planning process has not previously been available for water resources projects.

Defra has developed three underlying principles that should apply to the development of the NPS:

  • Principle 1: Defra will develop an NPS that sets out the need for water infrastructure as part of a ‘twin track’ approach to managing water resources.
  • Principle 2: The NPS will reinforce and make clear the role of water companies’ water resource management plans in identifying the most appropriate water resources schemes, including new water resources infrastructure.
  • Principle 3: The NPS will reiterate the importance of developing and designing water resources schemes that meet the government’s objective to enhance the environment.

The NPS is separately subject to an appraisal of sustainability (AoS) and habitats regulations assessment (HRA). Alongside the consultation, Defra has published an AoS scoping report and HRA methodology report on which it is also seeking comment.

The AoS and HRA will form the basis of Defra’s national need case in the NPS, which will set out why new nationally significant water resources infrastructure is needed as part of a twin track approach to addressing the resilience of water supplies.

Water companies will need to work together in a joined up way

The consultation paper says that to make sure an optimal approach is taken for the planning and design of new water resources, the water companies need to consider strategic regional and national needs as well as local needs and work together in a joined up way.

Defra is expecting to see some strategic supply options developed through collaborations by the regional planning groups of water resources south east (WRSE) and water resources east (WRE).presented in water companies’ draft Water Resource Management Plans at the end of this year.

The consultation paper says Defra expects some new infrastructure projects, especially those developed on a regional and national scale, “to be of a substantial size and complexity”, for example large transfers of water from areas of surplus to areas of deficit. The schemes will be strategic in nature and might cross a number of water company areas. “There is potential for several schemes developed in separate water companies’ WRMPs to be linked or rely upon one another”, the paper says.

Need to avoid setting perverse incentives to over-size infrastructure or favour one infrastructure type over others

However, Defra wants to avoid setting perverse incentives to over-size infrastructure or favour one infrastructure type over others by including/excluding them from the NSIP planning process.

Options for amending the NSIP definitions considered in the consultation paper include:

i. The size of the current thresholds for reservoirs and transfers;

ii. Whether to introduce other infrastructure types into the definition and if so at what threshold; and

iii. Whether to remove the requirement for NSIPs to be carried out by a water undertaker

Views sought of cost analysis of £160m hypothetical reservoir scheme

Using estimates based on schemes in other fields known to have been delivered through the NSIP route, such as the Thames Tideway Tunnel wastewater project, Defra has developed a cost analysis for a hypothetical reservoir scheme which could benefit from NSIP designation assuming a 10 million m3 threshold.

The “exemplar” has a total capacity of just over 10 million m3, which based on available cost evidence might have a total capital cost of around £160 million. The analysis suggests that the cost savings for the project to the developers would be around £1.15 million compared to the existing planning consent process.

The net benefit once estimated administration costs are deducted is £1.06 million. Defra is keen to receive further information on the costs of the planning process for developing water resources schemes to inform the analysis.

The NPS is also intended to work alongside the statutory water resources planning process and inform forthcoming water company business plans for the AMP7 2020 – 2025 investment programme.

The NPS will be non-site specific and is likely to contain information concerning:

  • the policy context for water resources infrastructure; the need for water resources infrastructure;
  • development principles including criteria for good design;
  • generic impacts and siting considerations, including generic mitigation measures.

The responses will inform the development of the NPS and final proposals to amend the definitions in the Planning Act 2008. Defra intends to consult on a full draft of the NPS in 2018.

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Cardiff installs LED street lighting network

Lights provide scope for sensors to provide data for smart city dashboards

Cardiff City Council is nearing the completion of the installation of more than 14,000 LED street lights with the potential to support smart place infrastructure.

Philips Lighting, which is providing the Luma LED lights with its CityTouch street light management system, said the installation will be completed in about the half the time originally allotted by the council.

Jacques Letzelter, head of public lighting for Philips Lighting, said: “It provides a scalable and flexible digital infrastructure which gives the city options for the future, such as inputting data into smart city dashboards or adding sensors that could, for example, monitor noise or traffic.”

Each light point is being connected wirelessly to the management system, which monitors and controls the network for the city. This enables lighting managers to dim or increase the brightness of street lights to meet the needs of the city at any given moment. For example, brightness levels can be increased near busy crossings or to help emergency services.

Chris Jones, lead electrical officer at Cardiff City Council, said the move has given the city an infrastructure that can grow with its needs.

“With continual monitoring, we can now respond instantly – such as increasing light levels at peak times outside schools and hospitals,” he said.

Philips Lighting said that switching to connected LED lighting can reduce electricity consumption by up to 60% and save the council more than £750,000 per year. It will also contribute to the goal of reducing CO2 emissions.