Seil group is ready to take on Scottish Water bosses
THE first meeting of a community stakeholder group to discuss Scottish Water’s solutions to its failing sewage plant on Seil is set to spar over the appointment of an independent expert.
Since 2012, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has recorded Balvicar’s eight-year- old, £11 million Clachan Seil Waste Water Works discharging untreated sewage into Seil Sound.
Scottish Water’s (SW) £1.8 million proposal to pump sewage over the hill into a septic tank at Seaview Terrace near Ellenabeich and then into a marine conservation area has been deemed by residents ‘the cheapest and nastiest solution’ and ‘breathtaking in its ineptitude’.
In an April letter, waste water services strategy general man- ager Rob Mustard reinforced Scottish Water’s ‘commitment to look at a number of options to find a viable long-term solution for Seil Island’.
Noting residents’ requests for evidence, Mr Mustard replied: ‘I believe our activities over the coming months will provide the community with the reassurance that we will fully assess a range of options.’
The options will be outlined at the first meeting of a community stakeholder group on June 6, regional communities manager Ruaridh MacGregor wrote to inform the community council, which had argued: ‘It is absolutely essential the community has full confidence in the efficacy of the stakeholder group to voice concerns and, more importantly, to influence the outcome.’
The meeting will be attended by Scottish Water’s chief executive Douglas Millican, and chaired by Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell. The group will also comprise three ward councillors, four SW officers, a SEPA official, and four community representatives nominated by Seil and Easdale Community Council, whom SW is keen will be ‘a fair representation of the wider community’s views and opinions’.
Scottish Water also introduced ‘external expert’ Ian Clifforde ‘to help guide thinking and provide additional reassurance’, and distributed his CV. It says Mr Clifforde, a technical director of water engineers Black & Veatch from 2002 to 2013, now works as an independent consultant providing ‘assurance review and audit roles for the waste water sectors of Scottish Water and DWR Cymru Welsh Water business plans’.
But local trust in Scottish Water is low. Community councillor Anne Marie Robin summed up feelings at Seil and Easdale Community Council on Tuesday May 26 when she said: ‘We don’t trust them one bit after the last fiasco. We need everything transparent from the start.’
One member of the public reacted: ‘European legislation requires stakeholder groups to have an independent expert. They need to be seen to be independent, and they’ve already appointed an independent expert.’
Another said: ‘Scottish Water have made such a cock-up so far, and they’ve imposed an independent expert on us. It should have been down to us to appoint one.’
A third added: ‘We are in no position to dictate a new expert because we don’t pay for them – Scottish Water does.’
Chairman Seumas Anderson said: ‘They made a mess of the last system but they’ve been open with us on this issue.’ Another resident agreed: ‘Scottish Water are well aware of the damage they have done in this community. They are in a different place now: they are listening – and the stakeholder group is part of that.’
Councillor Elaine Robertson appealed: ‘The stakeholder group is where this should be brought up, at the start. Let’s get this group started and go forward.’
The stakeholder group will report to the community council and SW plans a public information event later in June.
At the end, the meeting applauded the ‘humour, patience, and many hours of unpaid work’ of Mr Anderson, who stepped down as the Seil and Easdale Community Council convener after a dozen years in the chair.
Secretary Julie Ferris paid tribute to his ‘great efforts to take a balanced view and to represent everyone’s views. You will be a hard act to follow.’