Salford student developing new technologies to combat river pollution

Thursday 22 August 2013
Tom Curwell
PhD student Tom Curwell has been using innovative technologies to combat water pollution in the River Douglas, Wigan

A University of Salford student has been developing a series of innovative measures to tackle river pollution in Greater Manchester.

PhD student Tom Curwell has been working in partnership with Wigan Council and the Environment Agency, where he works as an Environmental Officer, to help clean up the River Douglas.

Wigan has been chosen to trial a range of dynamic schemes designed to counter pollution in the town’s main river. It is hoped that the project could soon be rolled out to other parts of the UK. The River Douglas is currently blighted by urban diffuse pollution, which affects water courses in urban areas throughout the country and can have detrimental ecological effects, including contamination of drinking water.

The first stage of the project will involve the installation of a Downstream Defender, which removes fine particles along with other floating debris from surface water run-off. Water from a road drain enters the Defender and creates a vortex. As the water swirls, solids such as heavy metals and silt drop out of the water and into a collection area. The device will be operational by the end of the month.

A Smart Sponge will also be installed at the end of a surface water drain which connects via a pond to the River Douglas. This filtering device absorbs and stores polluting elements in the water without blocking the continual flow.

Similarly, Smart Sponge Passive Skimmers will be floated in road drains connected to the river. Lying on top of the water, they absorb oils from the water’s surface.

Finally, a Storm-X4 Separator will be installed. Contaminated surface water run-off will feed into the base of this filter, whilst a separator inside removes and retains heavy debris and silt as sediment.

Once these devices have been installed, sampling will be undertaken to monitor how much pollution each device has removed from the water. The results will inform a final report which will be used to help plan the Environment Agency’s future action.

Tom has been involved in the project from the beginning, collecting water samples from the River Douglas, determining the best locations for installing the devices and helping to design the engineering works.

Louise Cramp, Environment Agency Project Manager, said: “We are looking forward to trialling a range of dynamic devices which we hope will improve the water quality in Wigan’s historic River Douglas, while also helping us to tailor pollution control methods which could be applied to any urban catchment.”