New Seafield stench ‘so strong it wakes people up’

Rob Kirkwood at the Seafield sewage works. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Rob Kirkwood at the Seafield sewage works. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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RESIDENTS plagued for years by the notorious Seafield stench say they are now being subjected to a new odour problem from the sewage works.

They complain the latest stink, likened to burning rubber and metal, is coming into their homes at night – and they fear it could pose a health risk.

It’s so strong it penetrates people’s houses at night and wakes them up. People have thought it was their car or their house burning.

Rob Kirkwood

People have posted on social media about “feeling sick for weeks” and referring to “poison in the community”.

Rob Kirkwood, of Leith Links Residents Association, claims he has traced the problem to a new piece of equipment at the sewage plant which he compared to a “pressure cooker” turning sewage into fertiliser.

He said: “There’s a new smell on the block. It’s a smell of burning rubber and metal which is even more noxious than we get from the sewage.

“It’s so strong it penetrates people’s houses at night and wakes them up. People have thought it was their car or their house burning.

“We’re worried what gases we are breathing in. This is a health and safety issue.”

He blames a new thermal hydrolysis unit installed at Seafield last year.

He said: “A similar burning smell has been reported by residents in Aberdeen, where the same process has been introduced.

“We’re being told it can’t be the hydrolysis process because it’s a sealed unit, but we suspect it’s venting gases.

“I have traced the smell personally to where this process takes place. I went down to Seafield to see if I could smell it and it’s coming from the area where this has been installed.

“When it was put in they said would actually reduce odour. It was meant to be green because sewage would no longer have to be dumped in landfill. It destroys more pathogens than any other process – so much so that they can then spread it on farmland.”

But he said the council was too short-staffed to monitor the operation properly.

“We want it closed down that will demonstrate once and for all that’s what’s causing the smell.”

Scottish Water insisted there were no gases emitted by the hydrolysis process and said the one in Aberdeen differed in age and type from the Seafield one, so could not be compared.

But a spokesman said: “Scottish Water takes all complaints relating to odour extremely seriously. We are liaising both with our regulators – Sepa and City of Edinburgh Council – and site operators, Veolia, to ascertain whether or not this odour relates to the plant.

“The new facility at Seafield was commissioned in early 2015 and uses a process based on steam and pressure – not incineration – to produce a sludge cake from the treatment of waste water.”

A council spokeswoman said: “Following reports of a smell by members of the public, Council officers have investigated the situation though have not identified a source. We will continue to investigate any future reports while working with other stakeholders.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com