Islanders reject proposals for waste treatment plant
ALL three of Scottish Water’s options to replace its failing £11 million sewage plant on Seil have been rejected by the island’s stakeholder group.
In June, Scottish Water (SW) unveiled two alternatives to its controversial plan to fix the leaking Clachan Seil Waste Water Works at a public information event in Seil Island Community Hall.
Scottish Water’s costly membrane plant, unable to separate run- off from heavy rain, has been overflowing untreated human waste into Balvicar Bay.
Its £1.8 million solution was to pump sewage from Clachan over a hill into a septic tank at Seaview Terrace near Ellenabeich and then out into a Marine Conservation Area (MCA), which some islanders deemed ‘cheap’, ‘nasty, and ‘inept’.
Scottish Water acknowledged the leaking plant between Balvicar and Clachan had led to a breakdown in trust with the community, but it hoped to rebuild it by constructing a stakeholder group of representatives, listening to feedback, and being transparent with the evidence when deciding between options.
Scottish Water’s first two options, displayed at June’s public event, gave Seaview Terrace a standalone septic tank, and proposed replacing Clachan’s small plant with either a larger 135m by 50m plant, including above ground SAF and final settlement tanks, or a greener but even larger 200m by 40m reed bed plant.
Both options required septic tanks and a final UV treatment before waste water would then be discharged into the sea.
The third option remained as before – to pump sewage from Clachan over a hill into a septic tank at Seaview Terrace and then out into the MCA. Scottish Water stated all the options were subject to planning consent, land availability, environmental consents, technical considerations and cost.
The stakeholder group – chaired by Michael Russell MSP, composed of Scottish Water, SEPA, an independent expert yet to be appointed and local councillors and community council representatives – then held a closed meeting at Seil Hall on August 16. There the local group ‘informed Scottish Water that none of the three options currently being considered by them was acceptable to the community and further proposals were needed’, the minutes record.
Concerns were raised over the size of the first two options, as well as their impact on residents and the visual landscape, and any discharge into Easdale Bay, given the prevailing wind and wash. One resident noted reed beds smell close up: ‘No- one wants to live next to it.’
Alternatives were proposed, based on fixing the existing Balvicar sewage plant or placing a reed bed on an alternative site, and a septic tank at Seaview Terrace.
Robert Stewart, Scottish Water’s general manager of wastewater service strategy, stressed all options, or variants of options, should be kept on the table for a fair and balanced evaluation of the evidence by an independent expert.
‘Following the agreement not to use the services of the independent expert proposed by Scottish Water, the local stakeholders were asked to redraft the brief and provide names of potential candidates,’ the minutes record.
The community representatives circulated CVs of two possible water specialists and, in an amended brief, expect the independent expert to ‘develop recommendations into a new option – making the existing system operate as it was designed to do within the existing footprint’.
Mr Russell restated the community found none of Scottish Water’s three options acceptable, and further proposals were needed. He added, the minutes continue, ‘that given past experience, the community deserved more than the bare minimum. The CEO had stated at the first meeting that cost would not be the determining factor. SW should pursue a high quality solution that does not pollute the environment and is not in an inappropriate location.’