Seil sewage saga

The Oban Times - - Front Page - SANDY NEIL sneil@oban­

THERE is still no con­sen­sus on Seil over the best way to cor­rect the fail­ing sewage sys­tem, which has seen un­treated waste dumped into Balvicar Bay.

SEIL is­landers are yet to find con­sen­sus on a re­place­ment to its fail­ing sewage plant.

Scot­tish Wa­ter’s (SW) £11 mil­lion Clachan Seil Waste Wa­ter Works, un­able to sep­a­rate run-off from heavy rain, has been over­flow­ing un­treated hu­man waste into Balvicar Bay.

Its fi­nal re­port on the op­tions for a new plant was pub­lished on its ded­i­cated web­site in June.

It ac­knowl­edged due to ‘sig­nif­i­cant dis­sat­is­fac­tion’ the com­mu­nity view of SW was al­ready ‘very poor’ when the cur­rent plant was com­mis­sioned in 2008- 09. Com­plaints then grew when its mem­branes ‘clogged up quicker than ex­pected, spilling un­treated screened dis­charges to the shell­fish wa­ter more fre­quently’, which were re­ported to the Scot­tish En­vi­ron­ment Pro­tec­tion Agency (SEPA).

To fix it and ‘a raw pub­lic out­fall’ into Eas­dale Bay from eight houses on Seav­iew Ter­race, SW pre­sented a sin­gle scheme which had the ‘low­est whole life cost’: turn­ing the plant into a pump­ing sta­tion to pass ef­flu­ent for treat­ment at a com­mu­nity sep­tic tank at Seav­iew Ter­race. How­ever, SW ad­mit­ted, the pro­posal led to ‘very neg­a­tive re­sponses, com­pounded by an ex­cep­tion­ally low level of trust’.

A stake­holder group, com­posed of SW em­ploy­ees, an in­de­pen­dent ex­pert, lo­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tives, coun­cil­lors and MSP Michael Rus­sell, was set up in June 2016 ‘to en­gage the com­mu­nity in the de­vel­op­ment of a mu­tu­ally ac­cept­able op­tion’. Twelve op­tions were nar­rowed down to two, ‘based on cost, fea­si­bil­ity and ac­cept­abil­ity’.

The first, termed op­tion 1A, would cost £5.6 mil­lion and re­place the ex­ist­ing plant with ‘a new ter­tiary treat­ment works away from the im­me­di­ate com­mu­nity, still dis­charg­ing to Seil Sound shell­fish wa­ter, and cre­ate a small sep­tic tank to serve the Seav­iew Ter­race res­i­dents’.

The sec­ond, cost­ing £5.5 mil­lion, termed op­tion 3, would see a ‘sin­gle large sep­tic tank and UV sys­tem lo­cated in the vicin­ity of Seav­iew Ter­race to serve all prop­er­ties cur­rently con­nected to the pub­lic sew­er­age sys­tem, with dis­in­fected ef­flu­ent dis­charged to Eas­dale Bay’.

The re­port con­cluded: ‘While op­tion 1A is more ex­pen­sive, on bal­ance it is be­lieved to have the best op­por­tu­nity to suc­cess­fully de­liver the out­comes and main­tain com­mu­nity sup­port.’

A map places the pro­posed plant around 300m west of the cur­rent one, be­hind the low hill run­ning along­side the B844. The plant, ap­prox­i­mately five me­tres high, and 50m by 135m, would re­quire a land pur­chase, se­cu­rity fenc­ing and a new ac­cess road, re­sult­ing in ‘sig­nif­i­cant lo­cal ve­hi­cle move­ments to im­port con­struc­tion ma­te­rial’. A di­a­gram puts its likely en­try point on the road from Balvicar to El­len­abe­ich, be­tween Kil­bride Farm and the ‘Tin church’.

SW then held an in­for­ma­tion event in June, ‘to ex­plain the process’ and take feed­back to help shape the project’s de­liv­ery, and then pub­lished these com­ments on its web­site.

Ac­cord­ing to SW’s sum­mary, many ac­cepted 1A as the best op­tion, thank­ing stake­hold­ers and SW for their work. ‘It is cheer­ing that af­ter years of seri- ous prob­lems and neg­a­tiv­ity, SW is work­ing hard to en­gage with the com­mu­nity to lis­ten and find so­lu­tions,’ one stated.

But some re­spon­ders dis­agreed: ‘Op­tion 1A [is] not my pre­ferred op­tion,’ wrote one, ‘but [it] could be ac­cept­able if a dif­fer­ent route was cho­sen for [the] ac­cess road.’ An­other said: ‘The en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact on this un­touched part of the is­land could be cat­a­strophic.’ An­other com­mented: ‘A scar on the is­land.’

While ac­knowl­edg­ing ‘ no-one can see it’, oth­ers raised con­cerns about the lo­ca­tion and length of the ac­cess road, plus the num­ber of ‘com­mer­cial’ or ‘heavy’ ve­hi­cles us­ing it, and the ‘amount of lit­ter left by con­trac­tors’.

An­other asked for ‘any prospect of El­len­abe­ich get­ting a proper sew­er­age fa­cil­ity?’

El­len­abe­ich was be­ing ‘left out’, an­other ar­gued, adding: ‘This is not a con­sul­ta­tion but an event to an­nounce a sin­gle de­cided op­tion which has been driven through by an en­tirely self in­ter­est group.’

‘There has been a lack of in­for­ma­tion cir­cu­lated by the group to the wider com­mu­nity,’ com­plained an­other.

On be­half of lo­cal stake­hold­ers, Anne Marie Robin said they had al­ways given progress re­ports at com­mu­nity coun­cil and pub­lic meet­ings. ‘The min­utes of the pub­lic meet­ings are dis­played lo­cally and are on the Seil web­site, as are the re­ports in the lo­cal news­let­ter which is also dis­trib­uted to ev­ery house­hold.

‘The draft op­tions ap­praisal which as­sessed the 12 op­tions was sent to stake­hold­ers in late De­cem­ber with a re­quest from SW for con­fi­den­tial­ity within the group as it may not have been eas­ily un­der­stood by peo­ple who have not been as closely in­volved as the stake­holder group.

‘De­spite this, the stake­hold­ers were able to in­form the pub­lic at the March com­mu­nity coun­cil meet­ing and sub­se­quently in the news­let­ter that the pre­ferred op­tion was an in­land site with full ter­tiary treat­ment with an ap­prox­i­mate lo­ca­tion. The stake­hold­ers in­vited a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from SW to in­form the pub­lic at the com­mu­nity coun­cil meet­ing of May 23 which was at­tended by 20 mem­bers of the pub­lic.

‘There has been no lack of pub­li­cally avail­able in­for­ma­tion.’

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