Council under fire over inaction on Seafield stench

Rob Kirkwood at the Seafield Sewage works says Sepa have taken action but the council have refused.
Rob Kirkwood at the Seafield Sewage works says Sepa have taken action but the council have refused.
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RESIDENTS have hit out at council chiefs for failing to take enforcement action over Seafield sewage works after a persistent smell blighted the area for three weeks.

And politicians have joined locals in calling for new investment in the plant in a bid to prevent similar problems in future.

Rob Kirkwood, of Leith Links Residents Association, said the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) had taken enforcement action against Seafield operators Veolia over sludge treatment at the plant, but the city council had refused to do likewise over areas of the site where it had oversight.

“Once again the council is refusing to take an action at all,” he said.

“It’s meant to be a watchdog but it seems to have had all its teeth extracted.

“There have been three weeks of odours and an unprecedented level of complaints. If they can’t serve an enforcement order then, when can they?”

Mr Kirkwood quoted a letter he received from Sepa, in which the agency said the main source of recent odours had been the primary settlement tanks, which fall within the council’s remit. The letter added: “Sepa is of the opinion that the primary tanks are not being fully operated as per the odour management plan during May, and that sludge levels are 
not always being minimised.”

Mr Kirkwood said: “That suggests there were sufficient grounds for the council to issue an enforcement notice for mismanagement of the primary tanks.

Gordon Munro, Labour councillor for Leith, said people had told him how the smell meant they could not sit out in their back gardens to enjoy the sunshine.

He said investment in the plant over the years had been “piecemeal and patchwork” and money now needed to be made available to tackle the problems.

“The plant is operating on 1960s technology,” he said. “It’s the largest waste water treatment facility in Scotland and it should be the example for the rest.

“If we are going to get a resolution of the Seafield stench it has to come from Scottish ministers. The solution is there, but the will is not – either from the government or Scottish Water.”

Adam McVey, SNP councillor for Leith, said there had been improvements in Seafield’s performance. But he added: “Now the plant is clearly incapable of dealing with the extremes of dry and wet weather that the city experiences. It is obvious that the improvement plan has gone as far as it can in improving the situation for the community and the plant now needs significant investment to make it fit for the 21st century.”

Scottish Water said it was aware of recent odour issues and apologised for the inconvenience caused to residents.

Veolia said it had committed to taking part in a review of the treatment process during periods of prolonged dry weather.

A council spokeswoman said: “We take concerns from the local community about Seafield extremely seriously. We will continue to investigate any future reports. In the meantime we have written to Veolia, highlighting the community’s concerns.”