Cleaning through the years at Thames Water

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Cleaning through the years at Thames Water

(Two engineers in the blocked pipe in 1929) 

In the modern era, Thames Water keeps its customers informed with all the latest updates at the company via social media – meaning we can literally get our news straight into your pockets.

This means via Facebook and Twitter, the social media generation is kept constantly updated during any live event, plus little snippets of the company’s wider work in the community and developing its infrastructure.

One of the most popular updates recently was that of zebra mussels clogging up the pipes at Walthamstow Reservoir, and the work carried out by our experts to clear them.

However, this is not a modern phenomenon, as the main picture shows. It was taken in 1929, inside a 54 inch main, which carried untreated water from the rivers Mole and Ember to Island Barn Reservoir, before it was sent to various pumping and treatment stations in London.

As the majority of the capital’s young men went abroad to fight in the trenches in the First World War, the cleanliness of the water pipes was temporarily side-lined, allowing the mussels to bed in.

These mussels clinging to the sides of the pipe had to be manually removed by technicians, to allow water to continue being pumped to Londoners, and it wasn’t until the 20s this work could be conducted.

The other photo, below, shows workers cleaning a sand filter bed in 1950. Sand filter beds were invented in 1829 by the Chelsea Water Works company, and are built in open-topped concrete tanks with sand and gravel at the bottom.

Cleaning through the years at Thames Water

Water is poured into the tank and is then filtered through the sand and the bricks into another storage area, helping to naturally clean the water and make it suitable to drink.

However, using this technique created a blockage on the top of the sand and clogged the tank up, meaning the sand had to be manually cleared.

After it was first invented, engineers would manually dig up the sand from the filter beds before piling it into wheelbarrows and taking it away to a specialist cleaning plant, before it would be reused.

It wasn't until 60 years later, in 1950, when advancements in motorised technology streamlined the process, and allowed a motorised sand skimmer to collect the top layer of sand before taking it to a cleaning plant, as pictured above.

Throughout the ages, Thames Water takes great care in how it helps clean and prepare drinking water for its customers.