VILLAGES near Andover are some of the first to benefit from new equipment to help reduce the impact of flooding on homes and businesses.

Following the wettest winter on record, groundwater levels in the south-east have been at record highs, leading to Southern Water’s sewer network being inundated by millions of litres of water it was never designed to deal with.

As part of a multi-million- pound effort to maintain services for its customers, Southern Water is using mobile biological treatment tanks – a first in the UK – at Fyfield, Monxton, Mullen’s Pond and Penton Mewsey.

The experimental technology will treat the excess wastewater being pumped out of sewers to a much higher standard than could previously be achieved, before returning it to the environment.

Phil Barker, Southern Water director of operations, said: “We have spent more than £10m in recent months to maintain services for customers, including using tanker lorries and temporary pumps to remove huge amounts of water from our sewers.

“These are emergency measures to allow households and businesses to continue to dispose of their wastewater.

“These new transportable tanks use bacteria to treat the flows from our pumps on site – something which has not been possible before.

“We estimate that each tank can improve the quality of the water treated by as much as 40 per cent.

“Importantly, the tanks also allow more oxygen to be applied during the treatment process, helping to maintain the natural balance of rivers and streams for local wildlife.

“We are trialling this innovative new approach, with a view to possibly using it on a wider scale in the future.”

Ten mobile biological treatment tanks are currently being piloted at seven locations across Hampshire and Kent, with a comprehensive water quality testing programme also being carried out.