FP7 funding secured for Autonomous Reed Bed Installation – ARBI

Patrick Hawes

ARM Consultant, Patrick Hawes introduces the new FP7 project that ARM is involved in.

Last year ARM along with four other SMEs and two research establishments were successful in securing funding for an FP7 Research for SMEs led research project, funded by the Research Executive Agency within the European Union.

Starting in September last year, the Autonomous Reed Bed Installation project (ARBI) will run for two years. Primarily the project is investigating the capacity of magnetic resonance (MR) to detect levels of clogging within reed beds and subsequently to develop a suitable probe for use in-situ in the field. This would enable measurement and ongoing monitoring of the degree to which a reed bed is clogged and how this is affecting its performance.

The ability to predict clogging rates and effects on water treatment capability will enable reed bed operators to plan refurbishment strategies and forecast budget requirements more accurately.

The primary parameters that govern the microbial mechanisms of action within reed beds are oxygen transfer and temperature. The first can be controlled by using aerated systems and the latter through heating. Increasing either of these parameters will enhance microbial activity and hence treatment performance. Improving microbial activity, however, can also raise biomass levels and thus clogging rates within the bed.

The ARBI project is looking at using the data generated from the MR probe to adjust aeration and heating within the reed bed to optimise the clogging rate against water treatment requirements. The adjustment of effluent delivery point is also being reviewed.

The final element of the project is to focus on commercialisation of these elements in the form of a ‘pre-packaged’ reed bed in a container which can be linked to other similar units expanding treatment capacity. The ARBI systems could be hired or purchased for temporary or permanent treatment situations and maintained/operated under a service agreement depending on the particular client requirements.

The mobile and flexible nature of these systems would be most attractive to small industrial applications, temporary treatment scenarios or housing developments. Although the fundamental technology developed from the project could be applied to larger schemes also.

The four SMEs and two research establishments involved in the ARBI Project are:

ARM Ltd, UK – SME,
Lab Tools, UK – SME,
Lightmain, UK – SME,
Nottingham Trent University, UK – Research Establishment,
Oxyguard, Denmark – SME,
Technosam, Romania – SME
Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya, Spain – Research Establishment.

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Can we learn from AMP5?

Phil Hooson ARM LtdPhil Hooson, our new BDM discusses the transition from AMP5 to AMP6 and how it affects contractors to water companies.

With the switch from AMP5 to AMP6 now just over 12 months away, most companies and contractors working with water companies will be taking a sharp intake of breath in the hope that the transition is much smoother than it has been in the past.

As most of you will know, the water industry in England and Wales operates on a five-year cycle called Asset Management Plans (AMP’s).

Prices are set by Ofwat at the beginning of each period following submissions from each water company regarding the company’s overall strategy, implications for price limits and average bills as well as strategic objectives such as service performance and environmental outputs.

Historically, water companies have always indicated that they will award a similar level of work across the five year period but this has not always been the case. Most suppliers see a very quiet first year, a hectic year two, three and four with year five tailing off as the AMP starts to wind down and contracts are closed out or completed.

Whilst the above may not have a significant impact on the water companies or their shareholders, in the short-term it can certainly have a major impact on the companies and contractors supplying the industry.

Difficulties in managing the fluctuation of projects during the first year of an AMP has led to some companies cutting their staff numbers or switching to other market sectors to provide a much more consistent level of work.

However, the water companies are starting to appreciate that there are issues and a number of them have already started setting up their main contractor agreements well in advance of the next cycle so that they can ‘hit the ground running’.

At the same time they also appear to be staggering their framework agreements with equipment suppliers, thus ensuring that the frameworks do not necessarily start and finish in line with AMP periods.

In some cases the water companies are now looking to extend their framework agreements beyond the traditional five-year period to create a positive impact between one AMP cycle to the next.

Time will tell how smoothly we switch from AMP5 to AMP6 but we are all learning from the current cycle.

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Milestones in wastewater treatment

David CooperDavid Cooper, Managing Director of ARM discusses how the use of constructed wetlands has evolved to keep up with the demands of pollution control.

Where population densities are low, wastewater treatment facilities are crude at best and non–existent at worst. Where population densities are high, the facilities have to be a lot more formal and sophisticated.

The world of wastewater treatment is similar in many ways to other areas of human activity. Innovations and developments occur by fits and starts, sometimes driven by events and sometimes by man’s inherent instinct to try something different.

Since the turn of the 20th century we have seen a number of distinct periods in which domestic wastewater treatment has moved from sewage farms to sewage works. The latter consisting of separate components – primary removal of solids and some organic matter; secondary removal of biodegradable organic matter and suspended solids and finally tertiary removal of residual suspended solids.

These works were frequently configured as primary settlement tanks followed by trickling filters followed by humus tanks.

Towards the end of the 20th century a number of more compact solutions were developed where the three stages; primary, secondary and tertiary, were incorporated into one piece of equipment.  At the same time, we have seen the introduction of constructed wetlands or reed beds into the mix of proven technical solutions for wastewater treatment.

Once again we have seen innovation and development by fits and starts. The initial dominance of passive horizontal flow reed beds is now being overtaken by passive and active vertical flow reed beds.

Passive vertical flow reed beds are now being used to treat the sludge generated in conventional water and wastewater treatment works. They are also being used to treat raw sewage.

Active vertical flow reed beds are now being used to treat a wide range of industrial wastewaters such as airport run-off contaminated with de-icing agents and wastewaters generated by the oil and gas industries.

Constructed wetlands provide a wide range of removal mechanisms which can be harnessed to develop natural solutions for treating wastewaters generated by ‘fracking’ and wastewaters containing ‘emergent pollutants’ which stem from household products, personal care products, medicines, hormones, drugs, pesticides and much more.

On-going research and development in all wastewater treatment technologies will result in further changes in the future as it continues to meet the challenges created by emerging pollutants and regulatory requirements.

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Innovation and development key to 2014

Tori SellersTori Sellers, Director at ARM discusses innovation and developments in 2014

2013 was a good year for ARM.  We won two awards for our Hanningfield project with Essex and Suffolk Water as well as being short-listed for a clutch of other awards for our Mayfield project with Heathrow Airport.

Providing solutions to airports to help with contaminated surface water as part of their winter operations plans will continue to be a key focus this year.

2013 also saw the results come through for the world’s first reed bed system to treat ferric sludge produced during the production of drinking water. New developments in the treatment of sludge forms part of our research and development programme which we are currently keeping under wraps but will also be a main stream of work as well as our work with water companies and sewage treatment.

As the UK economy continues to improve so is our investment in research and development.  Natural wastewater systems are always evolving as is the effluent it needs to treat.

The continual investment in research and developing new technologies will be unveiled later this year at conferences in Denmark and China, as well as the UK.

Papers are currently being written detailing some of the trials and we expect this to provide improved solutions to water companies, airports and other businesses needing to meet stringent discharge consents.

Stuart, Stephen and PatrickThe UK economy grew at 1.9 per cent in 2013, the strongest rate since 2007 and a clear indication that we are moving in the right direction. This shift is reflected in the positive developments in wastewater treatment.  To support this new found optimism we have expanded the team.

Stuart Widdowson has joined us from The Coal Authority in a business development and operations role.  Stuart will be working with a new business development manager and project manager which will be announced soon.

To keep up-to-date with developments please follow us on twitter @ARMLtd or facebook: ARM Group Ltd.

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Award Nominations at ARM Ltd

Award season is upon us!

Following many months, and in some cases years, of hard work, we are very excited to announce that ARM has three projects nominated across four different award schemes.

The ground-breaking drinking water sludge treatment wetland solution at Hanningfield Reservoir has been nominated for three awards, and the vertical flow wetland treating sewage at Lower Basildon is up against the Hanningfield project for the Sustainability Leaders ‘Water Management’ award.  The upgrade of the treatment wetland at Heathrow Airport treating de-icing fluids is also up for an ‘Innovations’ award for sustainability at the Institute of Engineering Technology Awards.

Congratulations to all the team at ARM Ltd and our partners involved in the projects.


House of Commons, London // 11th November 2013

Project:                Hanningfield

Award:                 Green Apple Environment Award Winner 2013 – Finalist

Client:                  Essex & Suffolk Water (part of Northumbrian Water Ltd)

Partners:             Orbicon.


The Brewery, London // 20th November 2013

Project:                Mayfield Farm

Award:                 Innovations Award (Sustainability)  – Finalist

Client:                  Heathrow Airport Limited

Partners:             Naturally Wallace.


Grand Connaught Rooms, London // 21st November 2013

Project:                Lower Basildon

Award:                 Water Management finalist

Client:                  Thames Water, Black & Veatch.


Project:                Hanningfield

Award:                 Water Management finalist

Client:                  Essex & Suffolk Water (part of Northumbrian Water Ltd)

Partners:            Orbicon.


Grosvenor House, London // 9th December 2013

Project:                 Hanningfield

Award:                  Finalist

Client:                   Essex & Suffolk Water, (part of Northumbrian Water Ltd)

Partners:              Orbicon.

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