TRAM contractors have been banned from removing waste material from one of their key construction sites amid allegations they have been dumping it in the wrong place.
Officials from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) were called in after 40 lorry loads of soil rich in heavy metals were said to have been taken from the trams work site at Baird Drive, Murrayfield, to a dump designed for non-harmful waste at Pumpherston in West Lothian.
It was claimed that contractor Bilfinger Berger had taken 800 tonnes of waste to the dump.
It is understood the soil was contaminated with heavy metals and other toxic substances from previous industrial activity in the area.
When SEPA were contacted, they visited the Baird Drive site and inspected data but had concerns about the way the waste material was being classified. They ordered that no more waste should be removed from the tram works site until further talks had taken place.
The Pumpherston landfill site is licensed only to handle “inert” material.
Bilfinger Berger were said to have been in talks to have 10,000 tonnes of toxic soil taken to a specialist landfill site at Avondale, in Polmont, where it would have been handled by a high-tech environmental clean-up company, preventing metals from seeping into the environment.
It can cost up to 15 times more to offload waste at a specialist facility than dumping it at an ordinary landfill site.
Simon Cole, SEPA unit manage for the trams contract, said: “We have been made aware of an issue at a construction site in the Murrayfield area.
“Following a visit, it is believed waste which has the potential to pollute the environment may have been disposed of improperly.
“As a result waste removal from the site has been suspended.”
Bilfinger Berger reportedly claimed initially only one lorry load of waste had been taken to a landfill, insisting the material had been inert and therefore not subject to any restrictions on its movement. But the firm were later said to have accepted that 40 lorry loads left the site before SEPA stepped in.
A spokesman for Edinburgh City Council said: “The tram project takes its environmental responsibilities very seriously and we are reliant on the contractors and their subcontractors to do likewise.
“We have asked for a full update from the contractors and are liaising with SEPA to ascertain the position.
Bilfinger Berger said: “We are working in partnership with SEPA across the project and have temporarily halted the removal of waste from a site in Murrayfield pending further analysis. All movement of materials is done following guidelines and protocols.”