Report on Leith sewage stench branded whitewash

Rob Kirkwood said he had been inundated with complaints by Leith residents about the stench. Picture Ian Georgeson/TSPL
Rob Kirkwood said he had been inundated with complaints by Leith residents about the stench. Picture Ian Georgeson/TSPL
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RESIDENTS plagued by smells from the Seafield sewage works have accused Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham of an “absolute whitewash” after she said an official report showed the plant was well run and odours were “very rare”.

People living near the treatment works have complained for years about the “Seafield stench” – and despite investment in the plant they say the problem persists, with yet another incident in the past week.

But in a letter to Edinburgh Northern & Leith SNP MSP Ben Macpherson, Ms Cunningham said a report on odour management across Scotland had found there were few odour incidents, site operators responded quickly and enforcement was available when required.

She said: “This was the most wide-ranging review ever carried out. I am pleased to see that the evidence confirms that sites in Scotland are well run and incidents which give rise to malodour are very rare.”

Rob Kirkwood, of Leith Links Residents Association, said the community had not been consulted by the report authors and the only people asked for their views were the water 
companies, the site operators, councils and Sepa (Scottish Environment Protection Agency).

He said: “They have reached these conclusions because the only people they have consulted are the people who ought to have been investigated. It’s a case of the guilty providing the evidence and coming to the verdict.”

Mr Kirkwood said even the report did not justify what Ms Cunningham claimed.

He said: “She is telling people around Seafield the smells don’t happen often, the site operators are running the place well and the council engages in enforcement action, all of which is an insult to our 15-year campaign. This is an absolute whitewash.”

The report rates Seafield as having “high potential” for odours and says that despite improvements, “odours have not been completely eliminated and people continue to be dissatisfied whenever odours occur and are quick to make complaints”.

The report says further measures could theoretically be taken in relation to primary tanks at the plant, “but this would have considerable cost and practical implications – it is more important to focus on site management to minimise odour impacts”.

Mr Kirkwood said there had been a “horrendous” smell for the past week.

He said: “It’s not just the normal suspects complaining. I’m getting e-mails almost every five minutes about it – people in Easter Road and Lochend. It’s all over Leith. It’s probably one of the worst smell incidents we’ve had.”

Mr Macpherson said: “I am frustrated and concerned that residents are still being subjected to periodic odour nuisances emanating from the Seafield plant. This is not acceptable.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We are aware issues have been raised around Seafield and sympathise with the concerns of local people. We have been assured the relevant agencies are working hard to assess the source of malodours.”