Northumbrian Water is ready to embark on the next phase of a £3 million project to clean and upgrade 9km of water mains across parts of Newcastle, North Tyneside, and Gateshead.

The project aims to improve tap water quality for around 500,000 customers with operations spread across 18 locations.

In January, Northumbrian Water was fined £500,000 for an incident in 2016, where the company was found to have supplied water that was “unfit for human consumption.” The Drinking Water Inspectorate accused Northumbrian Water of “cutting corners”. The water company apologised to customers and said there was “never a risk to health” to anyone as a result of the incident.

Work on the project in Tyneside will start on Monday (8 April) in City Road and Denton Road areas of Newcastle, and on Great Lime Road in Forest Hall.

Graeme Ridley, Northumbrian Water’s project manager, said: “This work will enable us to come into areas close by and use an innovative technique for cleaning mains, called ice pigging, which is quicker and less disruptive than traditional methods.

“We appreciate that road works can be inconvenient, but we have taken the conscious decision, in conjunction with Newcastle City Council, to do this work in the school holidays to minimise disruption. However, we do apologise to those affected by the work and thank them for their patience and understanding.”

Ice pigging is a new technique of pipe cleaning, where an ice-water slurry is flushed through the mains, clearing out debris. Not requiring pipes to be emptied of water first, and using less water than pressure jetting, ice pigging is “both more efficient and more environmentally friendly” than traditional cleaning methods, the company said.

In 2018, Northumbrian Water Group was awarded Utility Week’s innovation award, displaying an array of technological breakthroughs and forward-thinking schemes.