Ultrasonic level control and monitoring for United Utilities flagship project, Mersey Estuary Pollution Alleviation Scheme

Pulsar Process Measurement have supplied non-contacting ultrasonic level measurement instruments that have been incorporated into United Utilities flagship project, the Mersey Estuary Pollution Alleviation Scheme (MEPAS), providing key control and monitoring functions throughout the network of CSO/SSO chambers, vortex and interceptor sewers that form the MEPAS network.

Equipment used:

  • Ultra Controllers

  • dB Transducers

When the major Sandon Dock Wastewater Treatment Works was expanded during the 1990's, the scheme included a substantial network of interceptor sewers and CSO, designed both to separate out solids and particulates before the main Works and to manage storm surges. Some of Pulsar's earliest equipment was used as the project went live, including the unit that bears the serial number 0001. The Mersey is now so clean that, within a few hundred yards of the sewage treatment works itself, a scuba diving centre is flourishing, and many species of fish have re-established themselves in the river.

More recently, the new control systems contractor, Ramptec, along with UU's modelling team, redesigned the system operation through the 39 CSO's within the network. Pulsar Process Measurement supported, ensuring that the ultrasonic level measurement instruments at each location were performing to the performance specification for the project.

Under the new control arrangement, the holding capacity of the system is maximised, so storm flows to the plant are better managed, discharges of untreated and semi-treated sewage to the Mersey river are minimised, and limits are in place and controlled accurately to avoid any risk of further flooding arising from overflow of the system. Each CSO includes three or more Pulsar units, at measurement points to maintain control and flows - within the chamber, at the outfall end, measuring river levels and within the vortex chamber feeding on to the wastewater treatment works. Some applications were challenging, including measurement down narrow pipes that was previously undertaken using pressure transmitters. Pulsar remained involved throughout the project to re-establish control, providing service and commissioning support to Ramptec.

As Ray Watts of Ramptec put it: 'We have a very good relationship with Pulsar. The fact that we have their first unit, dating back to 1997, and also some of their latest equipment, proves that they supply good equipment and are able to back it up effectively.'

The sternest test of the operation of the new system came in September 2012. The 25th September saw some of the worst storms on record, and the effluent height in the culvert reached 4.5m above normal (15 feet), a volume of water that would have potentially resulted in devastating flooding if it had not been properly controlled. Both the control system and the CSO's worked perfectly, however, releasing the excess water safely away from habitation.