Contaminated Water Solutions

Billingham, UK

Reed Bed Treatment of Amine/ Phenol Wastewater

The 1930s saw the merger of four local chemical companies to form the industrial giant, Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI). Billingham chemical plant grew to become a multi function organic and fine chemicals production unit. In 1986, when Oceans-ESU Ltd were contacted, ICI had 250 batch manufacturing units spread over 650 hectares. This made it the largest integrated facility at the time in Europe. They were looking for a way to dispose of the wastewater effluent produced on site.


Type of Effluent Area Load Notes
Originally designed for amine chemistry. Site now used for multi-functional mixed chemical plant. 5 hectares, 7 reed beds 3,000m3/ day, Up to 5,000COD mg/l The reed beds have met the discharge consent consistently since construction.

Following trials and cost comparison studies, it was decided that reed bed technology would provide the ideal waste water treatment facility for ICI. The trial reed bed system was the only technology trial consistently able to achieve 95% removal of many of the highly diverse chemical contaminants. Alongside the treatment research a financial viability assessment was carried out. This assessment calculated the anticipated build and operating costs associated with six different types of treatment system. As such, in 1990 a large scale reed bed system was constructed.

The design contains seven separate reed bed cells each 70m x 100m, giving a total treatment area of 49,000m2. The design parameters were set so the reed bed is capable of treating 3000m3 per day of effluent with a total removal of 3.5 tonnes of contaminants. The reed bed system at Billingham was built on the site of a former redundant landfill site, adjacent to the ICI chemical production facility.

After many years of successful operation, the reed beds were eventually sold to a third party when the chemical plant at Billingham closed. The efficient treatment of a diverse range of chemicals made the reed beds at Billingham a viable commercial option for treating a wide range of waste waters.

In 2011, the reed beds, still managed and maintained by Oceans-ESU Ltd, received a permit from the Environment Agency to receive and treat tankered waste including landfill leachates and gully waters.

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