Beckton Sewage Works


Duration:6 years and counting


Country: London, UK

What did this project achieve?

Upgrade the largest sewage treatment works in Europe to cope with growing population

London's sewage system was designed in the 1860s for a city of around 4 million. With around 8 million people now living in the capital, the system can struggle to cope – particularly with rainy weather.

Beckton's sewage works were part of Joseph Bazalgette's original 1864 waste treatment system for London. Now the largest sewage plant in Europe, Beckton covers over 250 acres and treats the waste of more than 3.5 million people.

Engineers are currently working on a programme to upgrade the works.

Part of the Thames Tideway project, the scheme aims to expand and improve the site so it can treat 60% more sewage and deal with a projected 10% increase in the population of London by 2021.

Connected works aim to reduce odours at the plant.

Difference the sewage works are making

The Beckton scheme is part of a programme that aims to make the Thames cleaner for both Londoners and river wildlife.

Currently, even a moderate amount of rainfall can see sewage overflowing into the Thames, reducing oxygen levels and leading to fish suffocating. The project should mean less waste spilling into the river.

The work to reduce odours at the plant should make the air clearer for people living near the site.

How the work is being done

The Beckton upgrade includes the connection of a new siphon tunnel to the Lee overflow shaft.

Engineers excavated the new tunnel using a tunnel boring machine (TBM) nicknamed 'Beckton Becky.' The TBM used a rotating cutting head to cut through the ground.

A temporary railway behind the machine allowed workers to move pre-cast concrete segments to line the tunnel as it was dug out.

Workers gave the tunnel a second lining of concrete to make it more watertight and boost its durability.

This meant installing a cylindrical steel shutter in a short length of tunnel and then pumping concrete into the gap between the shutter and the pre-cast segments. The steel was taken down when the concrete had set.

Reducing smells caused by treating sewage at the plant meant installing odour containment covers to storage tanks.

This part of the project cost £67m and included work on 16 settlement tanks covering an area of 10 football pitches. A settlement tank purifies water by filtering out waste materials.

Project engineers also installed an odour management system. The system uses extraction fans and irrigation pumps to control smells from the site.


This work will enable us to fully treat more sewage arriving at the site during heavy rainfall.

Steve Shine

chief operating officer, Thames Water

Fascinating facts

The project aims to improve the landscape around the plant to encourage wildlife.

Other environmental plans include creating new footpaths along the nearby rivers Roding and Thames.

The chimney at Beckton sewage works – designed by Joseph Bazalgette - is a Grade 2 listed building.

People who made it happen

  • Client: Thames Water
  • Main contractors: Tamesis, a joint venture between Laing O'Rourke and engineering firm Imtech
  • Odour control system designed and built by Anua Clean Air International

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