Multi-million pound Sheffield river project is now complete

The River Don in Sheffield
The River Don in Sheffield
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A £78 million scheme which aims to make a Sheffield river one the cleanest in the UK has now been completed.

The multi-million pound project has transformed Yorkshire Water’s Blackburn Meadows waste water treatment works near Meadowhall which serves more than 800,000 people.

Sheffield MP Clive Betts and Richard Sears, communications director at Yorkshire Water at the unveiling of the new and improved sewage treatment works at Blackburn Meadow

Sheffield MP Clive Betts and Richard Sears, communications director at Yorkshire Water at the unveiling of the new and improved sewage treatment works at Blackburn Meadow

The quality of water in the River Don has been improved by spending more than £40m on high-tech waste water treatment processes – resulting in the reduction of ammonia levels to meet the EU Fresh Water Fish Directive.

Water quality in the river is now believed to be better than at any point since the Industrial Revolution.

The scheme also includes extra measures in place to reduce the risk of flooding.

The River Don burst its banks in 2007 and caused widespread devastation across Attercliffe, The Wicker, Meadowhall, Catcliffe, Tinsley and Hillsborough.

Blackburn Meadows water treatment site

Blackburn Meadows water treatment site

The improvements also support efforts being made by the Don Catchment River Trust to reintroduce salmon into Sheffield city centre for the first time in more than 100 years.

Karen Eynon, of the Don Catchment River Trust, said: “Salmon are the top predator in the water so if the conditions are right for them to return then that means the food chain below is all good.

“If there’s salmon in the water then that encourages otters.

“We’ve had some sightings already.”

Karen’s work with the river trust also involves trying to encourage people to appreciate rivers in Sheffield.

Their efforts have been made easier by new legislation from the government along with EU regulations.

“In the 80s and 90s the Don’s water quality was awful,” Karen said.

“But it has got a lot better. We’ve had tougher legislation passed which is enforced by the Environment Agency and EU directives all help the work we are trying to do.

“What we’re trying to do is make people come back to the river.

“People have turned away from it.

“Many people in Sheffield will only know rivers as a sludgy brown mess that doesn’t look too appealing.

“But that’s starting to change and the completion of the water treatment plant is a big help.”

Richard Flint, Chief Executive at Yorkshire Water said: “Blackburn Meadows waste water treatment works has been revolutionised during the last few years and is now a truly state-of-the-art infrastructure that Sheffield can be proud of.

“£78m is a significant sum but it highlights our commitment to improving water quality and wildlife in the River Don and also, crucially, protecting the site against the risk of extreme flooding happening again.”

“The water in the River Don is now cleaner than at any time since the Industrial Revolution. So much so that the water we discharge back into the river can often be of higher quality than the existing river water. This highlights the great strides forward that have been made to protect the natural environment.

“The construction of a £23m anaerobic digestion plant is another key area of improvement to the site. This process enables sludge to be heated and converted into a biogas, which generates much of the site’s total electricity needs.”

City politicians including Sheffield South East MP, Clive Betts and Lord Mayor Coun Talib Hussain were given a guided tour around the new and improved water treatment works on Friday.

Yorkshire Water was supported by contract partners Black & Veatch, Earth Tech Morrison and Morgan Sindall Grontmij during the project.

Sheffield can be proud of its new waste water treatment works.

Yorkshire Water chief executive Richard Flint said: “Blackburn Meadows waste water treatment works has been revolutionised during the last few years and is now a truly state-of-the-art infrastructure that Sheffield can be proud of.

“£78million is a significant sum but it highlights our commitment to improving water quality and wildlife in the River Don and also, crucially, protecting the site against the risk of extreme flooding.

“The water in the River Don is now cleaner than at any time since the Industrial Revolution.

“The water we discharge into the river can often be of higher quality than the existing river water. “This highlights the great strides forward that have been made to protect the natural environment.

“The construction of a £23million anaerobic digestion plant is a key area of improvement to the site.

“This process enables sludge to be heated and converted into a biogas, which generates much of the site’s total electricity needs.”