In September Karin Crofts from the West Cumbria Rivers Trust coordinated a fascinating series of visits and talks to celebrate our local rivers and lakes. One of these was a tour of Keswick’s very own Waste Water Treatment Works, recently upgraded at considerable expense to a state-of-the-art facility which will bring significant benefits to the environment and the community.

Now, a tour round a treatment works may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but manager Graham Forrester who has worked at the site for 24 years, had us captivated as we tracked the incoming sewage step-by-step through the treatment process to the final effluent which is discharged to the river. What has the upgrade involved and why was it essential? First, it meant the installation of better phosphate removal technology to reduce the amount of phosphate getting into the lake. In the past too much phosphate entering Bassenthwaite has been responsible for poor water quality which in turn can cause algal blooms etc. Secondly, the creation of the new sewage and storm water pumping system at Rawnsley diverts all storm water to the treatment works. This requires an enlarged treatment plant including a greater storage buffer for storm surges.

So what can we all do to make sure that our wonderful enhanced WWT plant and drains function most efficiently? Pledge the following:

  • Next time you flush remember the 3Ps = Poo, Pee and Paper: nothing else should go down the loo, not even wet wipes.
  • Choose P-free products – buy only phosphate-free washing powder, washing-up liquid and soaps.
  • Dispose of FOG carefully - Fats, oils and grease from the kitchen (FOG) are a common cause of blocked sewers and are not good for treatment plants either. So when you finish cooking pour the warm fat into a container (not down the drain), then when it has solidified put it into your dustbin to go to landfill.
  • In September a record-breaking FATBERG was found in a London sewer, the size of a bus, a disgusting mass of congealed fat weighing over 15 tonnes. We don’t want fatbergs in our sewers!

United Utilities asset manager Claire Maddison agrees: “We’ve worked really hard and spent millions of pounds to help improve Bassenthwaite Lake over the last few years. Projects to improve sewage treatment and help stop storm water spills were aimed specifically at reducing the amount of potentially harmful phosphate in the water. Local people can do their bit too, by being responsible about what they flush. Things like fat and baby wipes set like concrete when they combine in the cold of the sewer and cause blockages which can lead to pollution or flooding. The Lake is a unique and beautiful environment and it’s right that we all do our bit to protect it.”

Patricia Howell