Seafield stench complaints surge as tensions between residents and regulators grow

Seafield Sewerage Works PIC: Greg Macvean
Seafield Sewerage Works PIC: Greg Macvean
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COMPLAINTS about the notorious Seafield stench have hit a new peak amid claims the authorities are failing to police the odour problem effectively.

A total of 70 complaints about smells from the sewage works were recorded via the reporting form on the Leith Links community council website between February 24 and March 31.

But residents said nothing was done to tackle the issue. Community council secretary Sally Millar said: “The council has sent people down on a few occasions but they have come back saying there was no odour or low odour and it didn’t cause a nuisance.

“They are saying their one or two people’s noses on a very short visit to one place in Leith are more valid than the noses the 70 people who live here all the time and have taken time out of their busy lives to register a complaint.

“It’s extraordinary – but at the same time it’s entirely what we are used to.”

Rob Kirkwood, of Leith Links Residents Association, said there was growing tension between the community and the regulators – the council and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa).

“Seafield has been stinking out the community throughout March and continues to do so.

“The smells were due to digesters not working correctly, which means the sludge cannot move through the system, it just remains in the tanks, goes septic and stinks the community.

“There are two regulators here – Sepa is responsible for the sludge in the digesters, but if the sludge is inside the tanks they are not responsible for it – but the reason it’s in the tanks is because the bit of the plant they are responsible for isn’t working. But Sepa won’t do anything about it.”

And he accused Sepa of letting the plant operators police themselves. “They don’t have anyone on at weekends. When there were smells at the weekend Sepa told us everything was OK because they had phoned up Seafield and asked if there was anything wrong that could be causing odours and they said no – so it’s effectively self-regulation.”

Sepa insisted it could be contacted 24 hours a day and duty officers went out at weekends to check problems if the complaint fell within its remit.

A council spokeswoman said: “Our enforcement team is continuing to work very closely with Scottish Water and Veolia to make sure they comply with the relevant legislation at Seafield.”

A Scottish Water spokeswoman said: “We are committed to minimising odour issues experienced in the area at Seafield Waste Water Treatment Works and are working closely with our operating partners Veolia, as well as Sepa and the council.

“We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”