Going back to the 80’s to learn how Severn Trent led the way - The Solihull Observer

Going back to the 80’s to learn how Severn Trent led the way

Solihull Editorial 14th Apr, 2024   0

SEVERN Trent have been looking back at the past 50 years to 1974 when the water company was formed.

The end of the 80’s saw a pivotal moment in company history as it led the way in introducing nature-based solutions to wastewater treatment – something that was even given the royal seal of approval from Her Royal Highness, Princess Anne.

Severn Trent led the introduction of Rotating Biological Contactors (RBCs) to sewage treatment sites across the Midlands working alongside reed beds at sites, that act like large ponds to absorb nutrients from wastewater to help them grow.

But the engineering teams had a lot of hard work ahead of them as at the time, the industry had little confidence in the technology given it was so new and groundbreaking.

Seeing how much potential they had, at the beginning of the 80s, a Severn Trent engineering team was challenged to find a way to make the RBC and reed bed technology more robust and it gained global recognition.

Now retired Eric Findlay, from Knowle, who had a 22-year career with Severn Trent was the principal engineer on the project, said: “Severn Trent were the only ones investing time and money into these nature-based RBCs and reed beds, I don’t think the rest of the sector believed that they could work.




“But the things we achieved with that project were absolutely amazing and we were immensely proud of what we did.

“This whole project started as an ask on a Friday afternoon by John Banyard, the then engineering director, to look into RBCs and combine them with reed beds to see what could be done with them and it evolved and became a huge initiative that changed the game on nature-based solutions.”


In the late 80s, a number of Severn Trent wastewater treatment sites had investment, improvements and upgrades and Eric, along with a team including Ben Green, Paul Griffin and other Severn Trent engineering staff took on the challenge to make sure that RBCs combined with reed beds were a viable project.

It became a labour of love for the team, and it paid off as Severn Trent continues to use RBCs combined with reed beds at 163 sites amore than 30 years after they were first introduced.

Not only that, but the environmental aspects have also been recognised over the years, as the sites had, as intended, become more a haven for wildlife than a vehicle for treating sewage.

Eric said: “The project gained us international acclaim and showcased Severn Trent as a driver of innovation in the water sector.

“But the visit of Princess Anne to Avening Sewage Treatment Works was the cherry on top of it all.

“Although it was a rush to get everything ready as we only had six days to get the reed beds completed and done in time for the visit, but we got everything sorted and she was very impressed with everything that was being done.”

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