World-leading UV project shines a light on the future of water treatment

Pioneering technology is set to transform a Cumbrian water treatment works into a world first.

United Utilities is installing six ultraviolet (UV) LED reactors at its site in Cumwhinton, near Carlisle, after teaming up with innovative local engineering firm Typhon Treatment Systems.

The bug-busting technology is believed to be the first in the world to successfully harness the energy-saving power of LEDs to generate UV light on a large enough scale for public water supplies.

The project stems from an innovative collaboration between the UK water firm and Typhon Treatment Systems, and has been two years in development.

The first four LED reactors are expected to be in place on the rapid gravity filters at Cumwhinton before Christmas, with the remaining installation and commissioning in 2021.

United Utilities asset manager Dan Serrage said using LEDs instead of traditional mercury bulbs could vastly reduce energy costs and operational interventions. “We’ll be trialling it and calibrating the equipment over the remainder of this AMP period to prove the benefits are viable and, if so, look to expand its use to other parts of our area,” he said.

Typhon’s LED technology is one of the many success stories to emerge from United Utilities’ pioneering Innovation Lab, a worldwide tech talent trawl designed to help bring new ideas to the water market. The company’s third Innovation Lab is now under way.

Typhon Treatment Systems’ Managing Director Matt Simpson said the company had developed huge amount to get to this point, including developing the concept and building quality systems and processes for manufacture at its plant in Penrith, in Cumbria It now employs 13 people.

“Working with the people at United Utilities has been massively helpful for us. What’s really exciting for us is that, after years of talking about emerging technology we are now building it and installing it in a real-world setting. We’re no longer in research and development. We are a product,” he said.

UV light is widely used in drinking water treatment process to remove bacteria or tastes and odours caused by algae. But until now, other LED UV treatment systems had only been effective at treating small amounts of water for very low flows or domestic use.

United Utilities project manager Dan Fielden, who is overseeing the reactor installation, said: “One of the big advantages of UV LED technology is that it significantly reduces power and chemical consumption, provides an environmentally friendly, mercury free solution, and has the potential to increase asset capacity with each new generation of UV LEDs. The work with Typhon is genuinely world-leading.”