Large-scale investment which will ensure significant new protection for rivers, streams and brooks in west Somerset begins this autumn.

More than £12 million is being spent in two schemes in some of the county’s most rural areas to safeguard the environment by reducing chemicals and the discharge of untreated wastewater into watercourses.

The work, which begins in September and is due to be completed by January 2025, is taking place near the villages of Milverton and Bishop’s Lydeard.

Updated processes will be introduced to treat wastewater before its return to the environment, as well as measures to ensure the sewer system is not overwhelmed by heavy storms.

Water recycling centres serving the villages will be overhauled to help further improve the health of local waterways by removing chemicals and pollutants from the sewer flows arriving at the sites.

Increased storage is being installed to reduce the instances of storm overflows operating automatically to relieve the threat of overwhelmed combined sewers flooding homes and businesses following heavy rainfall.

Designed as a relief valve to protect homes from flooding, if there is too much rainfall in the system, the overflow automatically discharges into waterways. The new storage will keep more mixed rain runoff and wastewater in tanks at the centres before it is treated and safely returned to the environment later.

The centre at Milverton will see stormwater storage capacity more than tripled, meaning more than 168,000 litres can be held before being returned to the system for safe treatment. At Bishop’s Lydeard, storage capacity will be nearly doubled to more than 228,000 litres.

Wessex Water Delivery Manager Paul Godfrey said: “By upgrading these centres we’re significantly enhancing the way we remove chemicals, such as phosphorus, which is found in many household products, from wastewater before it is returned to the environment in Somerset.

“Together with the increased storage capacity to reduce the amount of times storm overflows operate, these projects will help to further improve the health of our watercourse, including rivers.

“We’re spending hundreds of millions of pounds across the Wessex Water region to upgrade the equipment at our water recycling centres, ensuring they continue to comply with standards set by the Environment Agency, improve water quality and protect the environment.’’

Wessex Water is currently investing £3 million a month to reduce how often storm overflows operate, with this figure rising to £9 million a month, if approved by water industry regulators.