Is­lan­ders re­ject pro­pos­als for waste treat­ment plant

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

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.’

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