To say there’s a lot happening at Deephams would be something of an understatement.
As the huge, £250m upgrade project goes on, there is barely a corner of the 170-acre site that isn’t a hive of industrious activity.
Nevertheless, despite all the different, interlinked projects, it’s clear the most important job is going on as normal.
For despite the upgrade that is transforming the site, bringing it bang up to date in terms of output, energy generation and odour control, continuing to process the waste of the 800,000 people it serves has had to take priority.
Achieving this has taken a supreme effort by everyone on site, from the customer liaison operation working to keep Deephams’ neighbours on board during the work, to the men and women of AMK, the joint venture of AECOM, Murphy and Kier that has carried out the project.
As Ron Gulliver, AMK’s environmental manager, explained, bringing Deephams into the 21st century has been like doing a service on a car, while it’s travelling at 70mph!
By that, of course, he means the plant has had to be carefully handled – its process streams have been taken offline and refurbished but without losing capacity. The flow of sewage coming in cannot be turned off and the quality of the discharge has had to be maintained.
For Rachel Groves, Deepham’s community engagement manager, the project has brought out the best in all the strands of the different alliances working on the job. “Working hand in hand, the operational and project teams have gone to extraordinary lengths to understand and appreciate each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” she said. “They’ve shared tasks on site, gathered and shared information openly and honestly and this has led to a common understanding and shared goals.”
Part of the success of the teams working here has been their ability to make the upgrade truly sustainable.
Said Ron: “By reusing the original site and many of the original structures, the design reduces the need for waste to go to landfill. The earth removed while structures such as tanks were under construction has been kept on site to reduce lorry movements and, where possible, some elements of the new process have been constructed at factories off-site to reduce the need for concrete structures to be built here.
“Every effort has been made to consider the scheme’s environmental impact – even down to building new nest-boxes for the birds on site.”
As part of her community role, Rachel has been instrumental in keeping residents whose homes fringe the site informed about progress. At regular intervals, the neighbours are invited inside the gates to see the scheme progress and suggestions from the community over working patterns have been taken on board.
“In addition,” said Rachel, “we’ve raised more than £20,000 for local and national charities and fully embraced Thames Water’s Give Someone a Start scheme, helping people with challenges who may have been out of work for a while to get back in work by offering experience here.
“Working with the local JobCentre Plus, our candidates were put through a construction industry programme and helped to obtain an NVQ level 2 in health and safety. And from the original course, five from the eight are now in full-time employment, two of them right here.”
With work scheduled to be complete by August next year, there is still much to do but a tour of the site from Rachel and Ron gives the impression that this is almost a brand new complex and it’s remarkable to think that improvements on such a scale have been achieved without compromise.
Jim Jenkins, Thames Water’s north central operations manager, said: “Since we started, we have had a number of unique challenges and to date each of them has been tackled by the five teams which feed into Team Deephams, pooling their resources together and approaching the issues with a desire to overcome, improve and get the best solution for the site.”
Thames Water project lead Martin Hoff added: “We have a fantastically enthusiastic team of people at Deephams who are working tirelessly to achieve great results in a demanding project and operational environment.
“It is a testament to the spirit of true collaboration and forward thinking that we have been able to overcome the many challenges faced and deliver real success for Deephams.
“With the next phase just getting under way there are more exciting times ahead for Team Deephams. Keep up the good work!”