Seil group is ready to take on Scot­tish Wa­ter bosses

The Oban Times - - News - SANDY NEIL sneil@oban­

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.’

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