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'Aquanauts' survey Lake District aqueduct
MORE than 400 workers have begun a mammoth operation to survey a 56-mile long Lake District aqueduct.
The ‘aquanauts’ are carrying out the first survey analysis of the Haweswater aqueduct – one of the UK’s largest and most important water pipes that was commissioned in 1955.
Hundreds of feet deep in places, 570 million litres of water flow from Cumbria to Manchester along the aqueduct every day, with the ‘mega-pipe’ supplying water to around two million homes.
United Utilities has invested £22 million into the project, which has been a decade in planning.
Senior project manager Carl Sanders said: “It’s not like turning off a tap. Draining and shutting down the system to allow maintenance crews in to conduct a thorough analysis involves over 400 workers in total operating on 45 separate projects to ensure the network of supporting treatment works can ‘take the strain’ while Haweswater is offline.”
He added: “Also, with some sections of pipe 19 kilometres long and hundreds of feet below ground level, ensuring the safety and wellbeing – both mental and physical – of our crews that enter the aqueduct is vital. The depths, confined spaces and pipe deposits will make it like another planet down there which is why we need to be confident they are up to the task.”
And the 80 crew members going into the aqueduct have undergone rigorous training at a purpose-built simulation facility in Kendal.
Each had to pass strict health and fitness tests, psychological tests to show they can cope with long periods in small spaces, and underwent specialist training on how to move safely in difficult surroundings. Mr Sanders said: “We had replica pipes built in Kendal to simulate the experience. It will be incredibly dark and slippery.”
Sarah Togher, a lead engineering technician with United Utilities, is part of the aquanaut team.
“It’s a once in a career lifetime opportunity to be involved in a structural analysis of this scale and on a piece of engineering legacy,” she said. “It’s challenging but exciting to be involved in a project that will be a part of history in itself.
“When I qualified in civil engineering, I didn’t imagine that the theory I studied would be put to use on such a stand-out mission.”
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