Thames Water and Network Rail work together to protect environment
An environmentally friendly herbicide is keeping tracks and taps flowing up and down the country thanks to a partnership between water companies and Network Rail.
Eight ‘spray trains’ cover hundreds of miles every night to prevent over-growing plants and weeds – and ice when temperatures drop – from disrupting train services.
Thames Water was one of the first water companies to work with Network Rail’s predecessors to ensure the chemicals used did not pollute waterways, which often run parallel to rail lines.
The project was first launched in London and the Thames Valley in the 1990s, but since then has expanded to create an agreement for the benefit of all water companies across England and Wales.
Dr Dinah Hillier, a Thames Water scientific services manager, said: “We’ve worked closely with Network Rail to influence the types of herbicides they use and how they’re applied so they are less likely to contaminate water, and we’re delighted with the results.
“It’s imperative whatever is used to kill the weeds doesn’t disrupt rail passengers or impact water quality, particularly where they are used as drinking water sources. We’re proud custodians of the environment and are always looking for more ways to protect and enhance it, and this is a great example of how working collaboratively with other industries can make a big difference.”
Dr Hillier represents Water UK, the industry body, on the railways initiative, which was turned into a memorandum of understanding between Network Rail, Water UK, the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales in 2016.
The agreement now protects more than 600 vulnerable drinking water sources from herbicides that, if they reached the water, would require removal using expensive and energy-intensive advanced treatment processes.
Dr Hillier added: “The spray train team are really committed to this agreement and understand the important role they have in helping to protect water, before it goes through our treatment process and out of taps at home. It’s great to see how Network Rail has become guardian of all our water sources too.”
Rossa Donovan, head of environment and sustainability at Network Rail, added: “Management of plant growth across the whole of our 50,000 hectare estate is essential to make sure that activities like inspections can be undertaken safely.
“This agreement enables us to demonstrate a commitment to using herbicides responsibly and has been a key part in our justification for the continued, and safe, use of chemicals on the network.”
As part of its future plans for 2020-25, Thames Water has dedicated an additional £1.1 billion for activities to protect and enhance the environment, including an innovative multi-pronged Smarter Water Catchments initiative, an 18 per cent reduction in pollutions and a commitment to generate enough renewable energy to power the equivalent of 115,000 homes.
- Thames Water blames pipe lining for tap water odour The lining of a water pipe has been blamed for more than 50 Abingdon residents experiencing an odd odour in their tap... Read More >
- Thames Water clears bus-sized fatberg from London sewer A huge 40-tonne fatberg blocking a sewer in South London has been cleared by engineers from Thames Water. Read More >
- Water treatment works giving energy back to the grid A water treatment works being run by Scottish Water is generating more energy than it uses with power being given back to... Read More >
- Rewarding excellence WWT content director Alec Peachey looks ahead to next year's Water Industry Awards. Read More >
- Refining water quality management As part of our Utility of the Future campaign, Nadine Buddoo looks at why maintaining water quality is a fundamental... Read More >
- Shifting the dial on drinking water challenges Ahead of WWT Drinking Water Quality Conference, Anglian Water's director of water services, Paul Valleley, provides the... Read More >
- Over-pressurisation: A serious risk for lime storage silos Hycontrol managing director Nigel Allen warns that many lime storage silos are disasters waiting to happen, and steps need... Read More >
- Why valve checks are an essential part of summer maintenance Fraser Higgins, Durapipe UK industrial product manager, explains why valves should not be overlooked as part of the summer... Read More >