Wastewater Forum Meeting Notes

Wastewater Innovation Forum

MINUTES of the 68th Forum meeting of 18th March 2020
Please note that for older reports some links will be to sites that are no longer active.

Oliver Grievson (OG) – Technical Secretary FWR/Z-Tech Control Systems
Barrie Howe (BH) – Chair Environment Agency
Alice Horton (AH) National Oceanographic Centre
Gordon Jones (GJ) Foundation for Water Research
Ana Soares (AS) Cranfield University
Sonia Heaven (SH) University of Southampton
Steve Bungay (SB) Helix Environmental


Chris Chubb (CC), Nick Orman (NO), Steve Palmer (SP), Peter Vale (PV), Matthew Greetham (MG), Tim Holloway (TH), Michael Hutchins (MH), Don Ridgers (DR), Kevin Ridout (KR), Paul Schafer (PS), Simon Tait (ST)

Item No Time Agenda Item
1 11:00 Welcome & Introductions
2 11:10 Minutes of the last meeting held on 16th October 2019
3 11:30 Agenda
Reviews of Current Knowledge
Latest Newsletter
Future article proposals
Website & Social Media
4 11:50 Areas of Knowledge Focus
Anti-microbial resistance
Chemical Investigations Programme
5 12:10 Other areas of research
Anaerobic Water Treatment
Circular Economy
Digital Transformation
6 12:30 Sharing information about other member’s research areas
7 12:45 Any other business
Date of next meeting
8 12:50 Presentation by Professor Sonia Heaven EBNet
9 13:20 Presentation by Barry Sheppard – Environment Agency EA Sludge Strategy

  1. Welcome & Introductions

    Everyone who attended the online meeting introduced themselves to the assembled members

  2. Minutes of the Last Meeting

    The minutes of the last meeting held on 16th October (66th Meeting) were reviewed and the following key points were highlighted.

  3. Agenda Items

    Reviews of Current Knowledge (ROCKs)

    A Review of Current Knowledge on the Circular Economy has been commissioned and Steven Palmer will be writing this. There are problems in getting someone to write the Anti-Microbial resistance ROCK but an article was published in the last FWR newsletter.

    AS and PV are going to lead on the Anaerobic Treatment ROCK and are putting together a proposal.

    Further ROCKs are under consideration on Wastewater Flow and Digital Transformation in the Water Industry but have not been approved as yet. Further suggestions on Review’s of Current Knowledge can be forwarded to OG who will pass them forward to the FWR Executive or directly to the Executive.

    Latest Newsletter

    The latest newsletter has been published and feature articles on Anti-Microbial Resistance and an article from OG on Digital Transformation and Customer Services.

    Future Article Proposals

    Future article proposal are most welcome and the next wastewater matters will be written shortly and will focus on what the customer will get out of AMP 7 in terms of value for money. This will feature the targets (ODI) that the water industry has signed up to and any comments/information from panel members are most welcome.

    Website & Social Media

    The website continues to grow stronger and the most visited features are the Urban Pollution Manual but also the presentations from the wastewater innovations forum are proving very popular as well.

    The Wikipedia page has also been set up, there was an initial problem of the page being an “orphan” with no links to any other pages but this has now be resolved by GJ.

    OG has taken over both the Twitter and LinkedIn Social Media channels and there is going to be a push on the utilisation of LinkedIn. The last FWR newsletter was pushed through OG’s LinkedIn channels and this received 2,501 views of the newsletter and so proved to be relatively popular. Pushing this through the Twitter feed added a further 272 views.

  4. Areas of Knowledge Focus


    AH took the lead in this area to inform that she, despite not working with the CEH anymore is going to be working with them on CIP 3 and plastics taking a mass balance approach looking at microplastics in the wastewater system and where the sinks within the systems are.

    Microplastics network is now linked with the UK Circular Plastics Network which is a much broader and wider “plastics” network that is funded through the Knowledge Transfer Network and ultimately Innvoate UK. This is due to the NERC funding ending and is a much broader plastic network. This is primarily an industry facing network.

    Current events are being postponed due to Coronavirus outbreak but it is an active network that has regular events.

    Anti-microbial resistance

    AMR is one of the Chemical Investigations under CIP and it is expected to inform further work and potentially drive investment in AMP 9 and PR29.

    Chemical Investigations Programme

    BH has now moved away from CIP. The investigations have either started or about to start to inform investment in AMP8 and submissions under PR24. The industry do need to think about what is going to happen when the investigations finish depending on results. There is a large team in both the Water Companies and the EA working in this area.

    The outreach is already happening and needs to run its course.


    On the subject of unflushables it was noted that the Fine to Flush standard as devised in conjunction with the WRc is now becoming mainstream but there was an upswing in social media in the area considering the current national crisis and the purchase of wet wipes as an alternative to toilet paper and the impact that this is going to have on the wastewater collection network and the water industry in general.

  5. Other areas of research

    Anaerobic Water Treatment

    AS discussed the developments in Anaerobic Wastewater Treatment and the work that is being done as this has been done for awhile at Cranfield University in conjunction with Severn Trent Water with PV. A demonstration plant has been built at Spernal WwTW with a maximum capacity of 500m3/day and AS, PV & SB are all involved as is Trant Engineering. The plant is a USB/MBR reactor and looking at effluent quality that is achievable and how its going to cope with variable flow regimes and storm flows. Different types of plant areas and how the reactor is going to be fed. Dissolved methane is going to be taken out of the effluent for recovery and the membrane design is novel. Using commercially available technologies but using it in a different application.

    Cranfield are running pilot plants to see how things are going to operate and looking at dissolved methane sensors to prepare for the Spernal Pilot Plant.

    Circular Economy

    Leading on from the Anaerobic Wastewater Pilot plant discussion at Spernal there is ion exchange going into this plant to recover for nutrient recovery. Also looking at water resuse applications and also methane and hydrogen production (the EBNet work).

    The technologies include UASB, UF plant and a biogas degassing unit and is being built discretely with Hazops going ahead at the moment and the project is progressing well.

    OG mentioned there was a lot to learn from industry about water reuse as this is being done and the knowledge not shared. AS highlighted that industry quite often reuse water and is about 60% of all of the consumption by industry. They will match quality to the reuse application. The beer industry reuse up to 90% of the water as a good example but the learning is not known about more widely. This can certainly be a good learning point for the municipal water industry.

    Continuing the discussion on from Anaerobic Wastewater Treatment a few different concepts were discussed including the development of novel materials from granular sludge treatment which is coming out of the University of Delft in Holland and the development of the Kaumera process variation of the Nereda process which is looking to produce a biopolymer from wastewater (more details). The markets are being investigated but there has been some interest from Canada for the protection of seeds, it is very much finding the market at the moment and there is more and more interest in this area.

    Digital Transformation

    OG briefed the panel upon the current move towards Digital Transformation in the Water Industry and the importance of instrumentation accuracy and knowledge of uncertainty around instrumentation. This has come from the experiences of Global Ominium in Valencia which was recently visited by OG as part of the WEX Global summit which discussed the use of Digital Transformation and how this relates to the Circular Economy (i.e. the production factory approach). The experiences of Global Omnium over the past 15 years of developing a hydraulic Digital Twin of their water distribution system was that the correct installation of instrumentation and knowledge of uncertainty was fundamental to the approach. They also took an approach of dual communications in the city of Valencia in Spain.

    On top of this the discussions included:

  6. Roundtable discussions of members areas of research

    Sludge and Liquor Treatment

    SB is working with AS on the Spernal WwTW project mainly around the AnMBR and is also looking at an airlift MBR as well at the moment with issues around Chemical Cleaning and a DEMON Liquor treatment plant and an AmTreat Plant as well.

    SB is also looking at a Food Waste Plant which is co-located at a WaSC treatment plant but coming across issues with under-sizing of process units due to a lack of understanding of the demands of the process. This is a completely different plant from the WaSC digestion plant. For Co-Digestion there is nothing legal preventing co-digestion but it does require operating under EPR which isn’t in the interest of the WaSCs.


    AH didn’t have anything to add over and above what was already stated. Key items of research are biodegradable bio-polymers and there is a lot of competition for research in this area at the moment. Bio-polymers are being hailed as a more environmentally sound plastic which is not thought to be a true representation.

    Some work being done in developing countries and addressing the issues in developing countries. The chief areas where research is missing are

    How much research needs to be done at the macro versus the micro plastic level and how many issues this will raise in the future. The smaller plastics can’t be detected especially at the nano-scale which is important as the smaller the plastics get the larger the problem and this is the level where it can have an impact around cell membranes etc.

    Developments around wastewater flow measurement

    The delivery of this is in line with the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive and is an extension of the EDM programme to manage flows through the wastewater treatment system and how this can be used to improve the water environment.

    Permitting approach

    BH is looking at the permitting approach at wastewater treatment final effluent and organic chemicals and metals. Developing sectional permitting due to the uncertainty of treatment effectiveness to develop more flexibility to achieve permit limits that have been put into PR19 and will be in PR24. Looking at variable permits for nutrients with some being signed off on a catchment scale.

    Constructed Wetlands and the barriers to the approach are being raised. Looking at a trial approach in this area.

    Aerobic Granular Sludge & the Circular Economy Approach

    SH mentioned this is an area that is being looked into along with the production of products centrered around the circular economy approach in wastewater treatment to recover products from wastewater.

  7. Any Other Business

    OG is to send a Doodle Poll to the members of the panel to agree on a date for the next meeting.

  8. Presentation No.1 on EB Net by Professor Sonia Heaven – University of Southampton.

    Professor Sonia Heaven presented the work that she is doing with (a) EB Net or the Environmental Biotechnology Network, and; (b) the work being done on Biomethanisation

    Environmental Biotechnology Network

    EBNet is a part of Networks in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy and further details can be found at EBNet is a part of this group and Professor Heaven is leading the EBNet area in conjunction with Cranfield University, Newcastle University, Heriot-Watt University and the University of Surrey. The purpose of EBNet is to

    There is a role for both the Foundation for Water Research and CIWEM membership in working with academia to facilitate these aims.


    Biomethanisation is an approach that converts hydrogen gas and carbon dioxide into methane which is some research that is going on at the moment via EBNet. This has an application that is applicable to standard conventional anaerobic digestion and has the potential to make it more efficient a process. The energy balance is not favourable for this approach as hydrogen has to be produced and the energy that is put into making hydrogen is more than that produced by the methane. However, when electricity supply outstrips demand it is a way of converting power into gas (i.e. methane) as it is relatively easy in the current gas grid network to both store and distribute.

    There is the potential for the water industry to, when retrofitting exisiting digesters, to covert them to this approach where a gas to grid option is being looked at. This, due to lack of funding, is at a small scale at the moment but adding H2 converts the majority of CO2 to methane. The current achievements have been:

  9. Presentation No.2 on the National Sludge Strategy by Barry Sheppard – Environment Agency

    Barry Sheppard of the Environment Agency updated the panels on the work that has been done on the National Sludge Strategyy which was published on 17th March 2020. This strategy was the culmination of 12 months of work which addressed the regulatory issues surrounding the Sludge Use in Agriculture Regulations and how they are no longer fit for purpose. Barry presented the group with the options that have been considered including bringing the regulation of sludge application to land into the Environmental Permitting Regulations and this will have a number of benefits for the industry including:

    The principles of the new regulation, with a preferred option to bring it under the Envuronmental Permitting Regulations, is to

There will be a consultation with the wider industry on this.

Watch both presentations here