United Utilities invests £77M at Burnley wastewater treatment works

United Utilities is investing £77.7 million at its wastewater treatment works in Burnley to help improve water quality in the River Ribble.

As part of its commitment to improving river quality, the water company for the North West is carrying out a major upgrade at the treatment works. The project will see the introduction of new processes, which will increase the treatment capacity and reduce phosphorus and other nutrients from the water that is released from the facility.

The project which is due for completion in summer 2025 will play an important role in improving water quality in the River Calder which is a tributary of the River Ribble.

The upgrade will enable the facility to meet growing demand from Burnley and surrounding towns by increasing capacity by 27%. The increase in capacity and the introduction of more storm water storage will also reduce the number of times that storm overflows operate in periods of heavy rain.

The project which began in 2021 is progressing well with most of the construction work now complete, work is now focussed on the mechanical and electrical installation.

There will be major enhancements to the treatment processes at the works to use more innovative technology to treat the wastewater to a higher standard. 

Senior Project Manager Tony Elliott explained: “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.”

These include an innovative new technology which uses iron oxide particles to increase the treatment capacity and reduce nutrients including phosphorus. The iron particles are then recovered using a magnetic drum and reused in the process.

The upgrade at Burnley is part of a wider project to improve water quality in Pendle Water and the River Calder by enhancing wastewater treatment and reducing the number of times that storm overflows operate in the area.

Tony added: “By increasing sewer capacity across the local area network, upgrading Burnley Wastewater Treatment Works, and carrying out improvements at Hyndburn Wastewater Treatment Works this investment will improve water quality in Pendle Water, the River Calder and ultimately the River Ribble.”

Across Lancashire, United Utilities has invested more than £330 million during the last five years in projects ranging from infrastructure improvements to riverside tree planting schemes, which are enhancing water quality in the River Ribble and its tributaries.

As part of its draft business plan for the period 2025 – 2030, United Utilities is also proposing to invest a record £13.7 billion to deliver cleaner rivers, more reliable water supplies and extra support for customers struggling with bills in the North West.

The regulator will review the proposals and give its draft response by June 2024.  The final plans will be agreed by December 2024.