WESSEX Water is pumping more than £18million to reduce the impact of harmful chemicals in waste water.

Three year-long projects are underway to upgrade water recycling centres close to the River Parrett as part of the battle to remove potentially harmful nutrients from the water eco-system.

Work at sites near Martock, Crewkerne and Merriott will involve upgrading equipment and installing new processes to ensure treated wastewater released back into the environment is of the highest standard.

Chemicals such as phosphorus, ammonia and nitrogen often found in household products can cause excessive growths of algae that damage plants and animals in rivers and streams by depleting oxygen levels in water.

High concentrations of nutrients are also found in farm slurries, agricultural fertilisers and septic tanks. 

READ MORE: Farm phosphate mitigation could see 1,400 homes built.

Beefed-up measures to remove phosphorus from wastewater during the treatment process before the water is returned to the environment and enhanced sludge storage facilities will take place at all three locations. 

And more than £5million is being spent to remove chemicals and enhance the water recycling centre at Somerton to boost the protection of local watercourses and the nearby River Cary.

Rachel Weston, project manager for the Martock and Crewkerne schemes, said: “The impact of nutrients on rivers and other watercourses is one of the main challenges we’re tackling within many areas of Somerset and by investing heavily in our sites, we’re fully stepping up to tackle this issue.

READ MORE: £10.5m Government cash could solve phosphates issue.

“By upgrading our water recycling centres, enhancing the processes within them, we can ensure we not only meet our water industry obligations but are also meeting the challenges resulting from an expanding population.

“These projects will help us protect the environment around the county’s many watercourses, including the River Parrett, and ensure that treated wastewater we return to the environment is of the highest quality.’’

Elsewhere Wessex Water is investing:

£12million to protect the River Parrett at the water recycling centre at Langport;

£9.5million to boost the treatment and storage of wastewater at North Petherton;

£6million at Hardington Mandeville and £12million in Milverton and Bishops Lydeard targeting and removing phosphorus and the provision of storm storage;

£7million on new storage and chemical removal at the water recycling centre at Ilminster.

The issue of phosphates polluting the Somerset Levels has led to a pause in the building of thousands of new homes while a solution to the problem is sought.