A WASTE water treatment work in the Borders has become one of Scottish Water’s most self-sufficient energy sites.

Galafoot Waste Water Treatment Plant in Galashiels now generates more energy than it uses. To mark the renewable milestone a plaque will be put up at the site which sits next to on the bank of the River Tweed.

The site generates the electricity from sewage sludge, the semi-solid by-product of waste water treatment – using a technique called Combined Heat and Power (CHP). On average the Galashiels site generates more than 18,000 kWh/week of renewable energy – which is enough to power 204 homes for a year.

The site does still have to import a small amount of power when the CHP needs maintained, but consumption has dropped by a dramatic two-thirds in the last three years.

Only two operators work at the Galashiels site which processes an average 150 m3 of sludge every day.

The sludge is created as part of the water treatment process at the site – which serves a population equivalent of around 27,000. It also treats sludge from most other parts of the Borders, from Eyemouth in the east to Newcastleton in the west.

Brian Reavely, better known as Fudge, has worked as a site operator at Galafoot for 27 years. He says one of his proudest achievements is seeing how the site has transformed the way it operates – and ensuring it becomes a green as it can.

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The 52-year-old said: “Treating waste uses a lot of energy, if you think about what we are dealing with and the different processes it has to go through you get an idea. Added to that this site operates round the clock every day, so it needs a lot of power.

“We take our environmental responsibility very seriously here, even down to recycling items like cans and bottles and packaging in our kitchens. And one thing we have started doing is working with our neighbouring works to ensure that the sludge dry solids are as high as possible when they arrive at our site – to save on energy use, reduce our carbon footprint and minimise vehicle movements.”

Another addition to the site is a collection of items that have been put down toilets which enter the sewer network in the town. These include a number of rubber ducks, false teeth, plastic toy figures, tennis balls, a dog’s chewy toy and various sized toy cars.

Reavely said: “Whether these things have been put down accidentally or not they can block our drains and do real damage to the network. So we do urge folk to be careful what goes down their toilets and sinks.

“But it is baby wipes which are our biggest headache these days, the number of items put into the sewer is unbelievable. They do not break up – where do people think they go? They just clog up our machines and causes blockages that can lead to flooding and bursts.”

More than 70 of Scottish Water’s water and wastewater treatment works are either self-sufficient or partly sufficient in their power requirements, leading to lower operating costs and a more sustainable business. Galashiels is one of the top five that offset most of the site’s use as well as being able to export to the grid.

Simon Parsons, Scottish Water’s director of strategic customer service planning, said: “To keep the cost of our services as low as possible it is essential we develop our approach to energy management and continue to reduce our carbon footprint.”