Yarra Valley Water team member pictured on-site working in safety attire and face mask

Our Yarra Valley Water project's Mechanical and Electrical team recently took out the 2020 Water Industry Safety Excellence Award at the first-ever virtual Australian Water Awards.

The team was recognised for successfully implementing a new, safer procedure for upgrading tertiary filter media at wastewater plants. This innovative approach greatly reduces dust suppression as well as eliminating the risks previously associated with completing the task, including working at heights and in a confined space.

The team received the award during a live streamed event earlier in the year. 

The solution which received the award was successfully trialed at a wastewater treatment plant earlier this year. Filter media is anything placed in a filter that changes the quality of the water flowing through it. A tertiary filter is the final filter in a typical activated sludge treatment plant. It works in a similar way to a common household water filter, where sand and charcoal is used to filter and remove any suspended solids before the water undergoes a final disinfection with UV light to remove any pathogens.

The trial took place at Yarra Valley Water's Brushy Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in eastern Melbourne where four 3 x 7 metre tertiary filters required their periodic charcoal media upgrade.

Previously, to complete the filter media upgrade, two workers were required to undertake a process that identified and controlled risks yet in contrast, with the new solution risks have either been reduced or eliminated altogether.

The approach used a crane to lower one worker in a cage into a filter. Rather than releasing a large quantity of charcoal from overhead, a 'blower truck' hose was used to blow the material into the filter.

The safety benefits of this new method include:

  • only one, rather than two, workers required to enter a confined space
  • charcoal from the blower truck is mixed with a small amount of water greatly improving dust suppression.

For the final filter, the crew trialled the use of an extension hose on the blower and completed the task standing on a permanent overhead gantry. This method eliminated the need for the cage and for a person to enter the confined space altogether and looks promising for further safety and productivity improvements.

Watch the award announcement 

AWA announcement