Technical Support Advisor, Ray Armstrong, first came up with the idea for sewer screening baskets nearly nine years ago to help protect the environment during heavy rainfall.
The stainless steel mesh baskets which range from 15mm to 50mm in diameter, sit in combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and work by catching solid items that have been wrongly flushed, before they enter rivers and streams.
Ray's aptly named ‘Armstrong Baskets,' provide additional screening for the CSOs - relief points approved by the Environment Agency to overspill during heavy rainfall in order to protect homes and businesses from flooding.
The 41-year old came up with idea, designed and built the prototype, and then with the support of his managers, implemented a number of successful trials in Northumbrian Water's sewer network.
Since then, more than 25 baskets have been fitted to CSOs across the region, capable of capturing up to 80kg of sewer litter, consisting of wrongly flushed items that should have been originally binned by customers.
The new patent, granted by the Intellectual Property Office, will help to protect Ray's industry-leading screen design and paves the way for others to licence the design for their own applications.
Ray, from Gateshead, said: "Innovation is a huge thing for us at Northumbrian Water and sometimes, some of the most effective ideas are the simplest.
"In the job that I do, I was in a position to make a real difference and I wanted to improve our assets and have a positive impact on the environment.
"I'm delighted I had the ongoing support of our research and development team, and we've now got a working product that is out there now, protecting water quality for both the environment and our customers.
"Customers can also help us protect our watercourses by only flushing toilet paper, pee and poo. Everything else goes in a bin."