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A fragrant outing to the sewage works

A fragrant outing to the sewage works

Once you’d have needed a clothes peg on your nose to survive a visit to the Hogsmill sewage works. Now a tour of the Hogsmill Clean Water Depot requires no such precautions. On a scorching day, when unpleasant whiffs would have been all too obvious, the Thames Water site produced nothing but a good impression.

Once you’d have needed a clothes peg on your nose to survive a visit to the Hogsmill sewage works. Now a tour of the Hogsmill Clean Water Depot requires no such precautions.
On a scorching day, when unpleasant whiffs would have been all too obvious, the Thames Water site produced nothing but a good impression.
In the 70s, the summer stench could be so bad that Berrylands was nicknamed Smellylands, and house sellers deferred until winter, when the pong was less severe. One Surbiton website still has a smell-o-meter to gauge ‘stink level’… but today it sits on zero.
Now, as our guide, Richard, observed at a well-attended open day, most filter beds are covered, and continuous modernisation eliminates any lingering aromas. “It’s all about poo,” he declared, to the delight of younger visitors. We passed vast domes – like radar listening posts, built in 2011 to capture smells.
Today the huge area is a wildlife sanctuary, with acres of undisturbed land. A reed warbler was nesting in the reed beds of the clearwater lake; much appreciated by members of the Surbiton & District Bird Watching Society, which had a stand at the open day. In the first hour, 26 different bird species were spotted.
Children fished in the pond for sticklebacks, skaters and water boatmen; threw mock ‘poo’ into loos to score points; Keith McMahon introduced visitors to bee colonies; and Thames Water – doing its best to be a good neighbour – served free fish and chips to all visitors… cod, not battered stickleback.
The sewage works was built between 1953-55, with the eternal message to visitors being to restrict material put in the loo to the three Ps; poo, pee and paper… not the wet wipes, cotton buds and fat which congeal and cause blockages.
Every single day of the week, an entire skipful of wet wipes, caught in the filters, is removed from the site. Meanwhile the filtered waste is dried and trucked away as agricultural fertiliser.

 

 

 

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