A HUGE tunnel is being created under East Lancashire's largest motorway as part of a £150million upgrade to the area's wastewater network.

This week, a 23 tonne tunnel boring machine, which goes by the name of Sandy, was lifted by a crane into the bottom of a shaft just off the M65 - ready to begin an 'epic' tunnelling journey 16 metres underneath the motorway.

Using laser guiding and GPS location technology, Sandy’s support team will be able to construct the 270 metre tunnel to millimetre accuracy, helping to pave the way for a new 1.6km pipeline being laid between Blackburn and Darwen wastewater treatment works.

Kevin Moody, Programme Manager at United Utilities, said: “This is an exciting milestone in the Blackburn and Darwen infrastructure project.

“The new pipeline is key to this project and we have an excellent team of specialists working with us on this particular section of the tunnel to safely get us under the motorway.”

Over the next 8 weeks ‘Sandy’ will be working hard deep underground, which forms part of a multi-million pound project, aimed at improving local watercourses that are tributaries of the River Darwen, which feeds into the River Ribble. The improvements will ultimately have environmental benefits by helping to continue the improvement of bathing waters along the Fylde coast.

Part of the project includes the installation of a revolutionary wastewater treatment technology at Blackburn wastewater treatment works, known as Nereda. Blackburn will have the largest purpose built Nereda process plant built in Europe, built within the current wastewater site boundary.

“We were the first in the UK to invest in pilot plant for Nereda and we’ve been hard at work testing the process at a number of our sites.

“Nereda is a development of the conventional process for treating wastewater which has been used for over 100 years, and this new technology represents a significant and evolutionary step in wastewater treatment technology, as we continue to develop to ensure we can meet the needs of today’s population, whilst protecting the environment,” added Kevin

The project will be fully operational in 2021.