Wall-E robot works on tap water quality



An innovative remote controlled underwater robot resembling the Disney Pixar character Wall-E is being used by Northumbrian Water to maintain top quality drinking water.

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The robotic underwater vacuum cleaner - the VR600 - is being trialled to clean and remove sediment from a big underground tank in the North Tyne Valley which stores treated water before it is sent to customers’ taps.

Water from the tank, called a service reservoir, is supplied to more than 33,000 customers in West Northumberland including the Tyne and North Valleys from Hexham up to Kielder.

Thanks to its innovative design, the VR600 machine can do its job while the reservoir is still in service minimising potential disruption to customers.

Service reservoirs are vital as they allow supply and pressure to be maintained during peak demand periods and provide contingency in case of burst mains or mechanical breakdown.

Paul Richardson, Northumbrian Water’s Project Manager, said: “By using this robotic underwater vacuum cleaner we are able to remove the harmless sediment from the floor of the tank and prevent it being stirred up in the future and causing discoloured water.

“Cleaning with Wall.E means less disruption for customers and that top tap water quality is maintained. The results of this trial are very good indeed and I expect we will be using the characterful chap in the future on other jobs.

“It’s an innovative use of new technology which can be done quickly, efficiently and safely while the water is still in use.”

Northumbrian Water is also using smaller ROV robots resembling yellow submarines, and named after the Beatles Ringo and Macca, to inspect the condition of service reservoirs while they are still online.

Both the ROV’s and VR600’s are meticulously disinfected before being deployed into the tanks, so there is no risk to tap water quality. The innovative machines are all supplied by Borders and South Shields-based contractors Panton McLeod.

Paul Henderson, Sales Director of Panton McLeod the UK’s leading water quality engineering company, said: “We asked the pilots who operate the VR600’s to give them a name and, as they look remarkably like the Disney character they were not, unsurprisingly, christened Wall.E!”

Water facts:

• The service reservoir at the treatment works in the North Tyne Valley hold up to 4.5 million litres which is the equivalent of more than two Olympic-sized swimming pools.

• It is the first time Northumbrian Water has used the VR600 to clean one of its 365 service reservoirs which are located at more than 230 locations throughout the North East.

• The total all those reservoirs can store is 1.7 billion litres, the equivalent of 680 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

• Between 2010-2015 Northumbrian Water will have invested more than £26 million to inspect, maintain, repair and renew its service reservoirs.

• Northumbrian Water serves about 2.7 million customers from the Scottish Borders, down to North Yorkshire and across to the Pennines.

For further media information contact: Alistair Baker, Northumbrian Water’s Communications & PR Manager: 0191 3016851 / 07711 793493.

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