British Water has welcomed guidance from Energy & Utility Skills which sets out how businesses in the sector can develop and maintain a sustainable workforce beyond Covid-19. The whitepaper – 6 Easy Steps: A Pragmatic Approach to Workforce Planning – demonstrates how strategic workforce planning can assist businesses as they build their post-pandemic strategies and plan “an effective route back to business as usual beyond Covid-19”.
The principles outlined may prove valuable to the water industry supply community as businesses rethink their long-term strategies to adapt to the sudden changes. British Water chief executive Lila Thompson said: “The water industry is critical for the health and wellbeing of the population and the supply chain plays a vital role in delivering essential services for customers. Having just entered AMP7, the utilities will be relying even more so on suppliers’ resilience so that postponed capital projects can begin in earnest when it is safe to do so.
“As the representative and business development organisation for the UK supply community, British Water is leading efforts to support members and regulators to put measures in place to ensure businesses can emerge from the pandemic in a healthy position. Energy & Utility Skills’ report provides additional insight into how businesses can ensure they have the right people in place at the right time to meet current and future challenges.
“I am pleased the report recognises that companies whose workforce may be scaled back could utilise their suppliers for additional support. “I also fully agree with the point that virtual communication and social distance arrangements may fundamentally change future workforce needs. As part of this new approach, and with health and wellbeing always at the forefront, it is important for companies to recognise they may need to continue to invest in technology that enables tasks to be carried out remotely during and beyond Covid-19. “Technology that allows this transition should be embraced as we continue our journey to become an even more resilient and sustainable industry.”
Czech town welcomes wastewater treatment installation
A new wastewater treatment system installed in a town in the Czech Republic will protect valued fishing ponds and raise the quality to required EU environmental standards. Packaged wastewater treatment plant provider WPL installed a below-ground system in Klimkovice, in the country’s Moravian-Silesian region, as part of a municipality-led project to construct a first-time sewerage network to serve 340 of the town’s residents.
Some 110 properties will connect to the new system, replacing ageing septic tanks that had been seeping into streams which flowed into the popular fishing ponds, impacting the quality of the waters, which have protections under the EU’s Water Framework Directive. The project was welcomed by the local community and its successful completion marked with an opening ceremony.
Frantisek Lindovsky, WPL’s manager for central Europe, said: “It was the municipality’s aim to protect the ponds and provide a clean and healthy environment for the fish, which is why the decision was taken to invest in a new sewer network and sewage treatment plant. WPL’s technology was considered the most suitable because our treatment units are modular, compact and ready-to-use.
“The completed system, which will be fed by the town’s new sewer network, will significantly improve the quality of the local streams and fishing ponds and ensure they meet the environmental standards set out by the EU.”
The project team had to overcome significant challenges caused by high groundwater levels, which hindered installation of the treatment tanks. To manage this, engineers built a temporary well so that water could be continually pumped out and levels kept down throughout construction.
The installed treatment plant – WPL’s Hybrid-SAF biological system – comprises units designed to control chemical oxygen demand (COD), biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) suspended solids, and ammonia. A remote monitoring system was also installed. The high environmental standards required included 30mg/l BOD, 110mg/l COD, 40mg/l suspended solids and 20mg/l ammonia.
To protect the below-ground units from excess groundwater the excavation was fully backfilled with water-resistant concrete. A small biological pond was also constructed by a municipality-sourced supplier to provide tertiary treatment and extra capacity was built into the system to cater for population growth. The scheme was financed by the EU Cohesion Fund, which aims to promote sustainable development, and the Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic.
The mayor of Klimkovice, Jaroslav Varga, said: “The area’s fishing ponds are used for fish farming as well as leisure, so it was important to protect them. Installation of the project was executed without any problems and WPL worked with us very proactively. We’re happy they will assist us in the first few months of operation.”
Lindovsky said: “The mayor considered this to be a very successful project because it was on time and within budget and they wanted to celebrate completion with drinks and a speech. As wastewater treatment specialists it is very satisfying to see the pride taken in the new system and the level of appreciation for the environmental benefits it will bring.” The site will be managed by the municipality with WPL providing supervision and support.
Assessing risk and determining responses to Covid-19 were major themes of the most recent Water Action Platform webinar which took place on 9 July. Here are six key learnings from the interactive event which was hosted by Isle chairman Piers Clark.
- Expect seasonal resurgence of Covid-19
Recent research shows that we can expect resurgence of Covid-19 due to seasonal fluctuations. In an interview on the Water Action Platform webinar on 9 July, hydrologist Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm, Chair and Professor at University of Maryland said research into the environmental conditions needed for virus outbreaks to “explode” showed the sweetspot for temperature was between 5-11oC and for relative humidity, between 40-70%. He also explained that this information is not yet included in predictive models.Miralles-Wilhelm said, “We do expect resurgence of the virus. It’s a seasonal virus like influenza. As we have very good ways to predict weather and climate we can expect to see a resurgence in November/early December in the northern hemisphere.
“If we are prepared and take the social distancing measures needed, we can minimise the impact. We have plenty of warning, there is no excuse for not being ready.”
- Wastewater detection can give early warning on Covid
The potential for wastewater to act as an early-warning-system for outbreaks of Covid-19 in communities is being demonstrated by Canadian technology company LuminUltra. Repeatedly testing everyone in a given population for Covid-19 may not be feasible, but identifying and quantifying the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in their collective wastewater can serve as an early warning system, alerting health authorities.Patrick Whalen, chief executive, LuminUltra said, “The science is still evolving but what we know is that people not only infect others directly, but also through air and surfaces. There is potential for wastewater to act as early warning system, to determine the presence of asymptomatic carriers without having to run tests directly on people.”
Responding to a government callout for technologies for diagnostic testing, LuminUltra contacted Public Health Canada and offered to help shore-up the supply chain for reagents.
The company has now produced 5 million quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) tests for Canada and is helping other countries.
- Sewage based epidemiology costs quantified
Participants in the Water Action Platform have been keen to better understand the cost of implementing a sewage-based epidemiological system. A new research paper from a collaboration between engineering consultancy Arup, KWR research institute in the Netherlands and Exeter University in the UK outlines the tasks and costs associated with designing an early-warning system and cites two main cost elements.The first is the initiation phase during which systems are set up, for which the costs are estimated at £200,000. Deployment costs then have to be factored in and for populations of 3-5 million that could run up to £1 million, depending on localised variables.
Spanish technology company GoAigua has developed a similar pricing model which shows that costs vary depending on size and complexity of the utility and the number of samples, the cost of which ranges from US$30-50 dollars per unit.
- Far-UVC light inactivates coronaviruses safely
Recent research carried out in the US has shown that far-UVC light – wavelengths in the 207-222nm range – efficiently inactivates airborne human coronaviruses. It is well known that conventional germicidal UVC lamps, emitting 254nm wavelengths, can be used to disinfect unoccupied spaces such as empty hospital wards and train carriages, but direct exposure poses a health hazard to humans and cannot be used in occupied spaces.The new study from Columbia University Irving Medical Center found that more than 99.9% of seasonal coronaviruses present in airborne droplets were killed when exposed to a particular wavelength of ultraviolet light that is safe to use around humans. Far-UVC light cannot penetrate the tear film on the surface of the eye or the outermost layer of skin so it cannot damage living cells in the human body.
Isle chairman Piers Clark said, “At these low dose rates, far-UVC exposure might well provide a method for reducing the virus in public locations. On its own this doesn’t solve the pandemic, but it’s definitely part of the solution.”
- Very low risk of virus spreading through sewage
An ongoing review of the available academic literature by analysts from Isle continues to conclude that the risk of contracting Covid-19 through exposure to sewage is very low. A recent paper on transmission in recreational waters in the journal Science of the Total Environment says that while wastewater is a potential dissemination route for SARS-CoV-2 to recreational waters, there is limited data on the presence and viability of the virus in water bodies.Isle chairman Piers Clark says, “More research is needed, but we hold to our previously stated conclusions that the risk of the virus spreading through sewage is very low.”
- Workplace diversity accelerated at innovation sprint
A collaborative sprint on Improving Workplace Diversity in the Water Industry will take place as part of the Northumbrian Water Innovation Festival. The event, which facilitates sprints and challenges to help solve real-world water issues, will be delivered digitally and internationally for the first time and takes place from 14-17 September.Isle is leading the diversity sprint which will take place 24-hours-a-day, over all four-days of the festival.
Isle chairman Piers Clark said, “We’re going to look at how we can improve workplace diversity in the water sector and I’m delighted that a much wider group can get involved than ever before, from anywhere around the world. We aim to highlight key issues, gather data and share best practice on a topic which very relevant, especially in light of the Black Lives Matter movement.”
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