Ground breaking research to remove phosphorus compounds from waste water is being carried at a Southern Water treatment plant in Petersfield in co-operation with academics from the University of Portsmouth.
Southern Water spends £5 million a year on R&D sponsoring PhD students, conducting experiments and developing and testing new technologies and techniques.
Saskia Benzig a Portsmouth University PhD candidate working at the Petersfield Innovation Hub, is examining how different types of absorptive material might be used to remove phosphorus from waste water- an increasing problem and the subject of increasingly stringent targets by the Environment Agency.
Rebecca Kennedy research and development planner at Southern Water explained that phosphorus is really good at making things grow – which is why a fifth of the phosphorus entering the water cycle comes from fertiliser run off.
However, that includes making algae bloom in rivers and streams and that can have a serious impact on the other living things trying to share an eco-system with algae –“ in other words fish die.”
Phosphorus compounds are also present in food but the human body excretes most of it. Shampoos and conditioners have additional compounds and dishwasher and washing machine detergent can also contain phosphorus.
Existing solutions involve dosing waste water with additional chemicals and the systems involved can only generally be used at very large treatment plants. The techniques under development by Benzig and other scientists working with Southern Water will be deployable at even small rural treatment centres.