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Michael Fordham, Thames Water Utilities, £165M sewage sludge incineration project

East London Sludge Incineration, the ELSI project, was Thames Water's £165M plan to halt disposal of sewage sludge at sea - a practice that had been the norm at Beckton and Crossness sewage treatment works on the Thames estuary for a century.

Fordham had to manage the project against the EC Water Directive's deadline of 30 December 1998, which meant exploring a wide range of alternatives before choosing incineration. This was one of the most controversial options for the local community but, if properly executed, had the lowest overall environmental impact.

Success meant reorganising the approach to the project. 'In the face of strong local opposition to our best practical environmental option of incineration, I won the support, and more importantly the confidence, of opinion formers,' he says.

On site, a fixed price lump sum contract let to Amec-Lurgi consortium was managed with what Fordham calls a 'deviation register' to track changes made during the contractor's design period.

Variations were kept to less than 2% of the final value - substantially less than initial estimates.

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