Residents urge Scottish Water to end PFI contract at Seafield sewage works

Local resident Rob Kirkwood accused Seafield operators Veolia Water of 'poor management and very low standards'. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Local resident Rob Kirkwood accused Seafield operators Veolia Water of 'poor management and very low standards'. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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CAMPAIGNERS have called on Scottish Water to end the PFI contract for Seafield sewage works after the company announced it had taken over the operation of four PFI plants in the north-east of Scotland.

Residents have complained for years about the notorious “Seafield stench” which can leave locals unable to use their gardens or even open their windows. A record 80 complaints were recorded in one month in the summer. The plant is owned by Scottish Water but run by Veolia Water.

Rob Kirkwood, of Leith Links Residents Association, said: “Our experience in the community under PFI has been appalling – poor management and very low standards.

“You just have to look at the number of complaints from the community over the time. They have had to have their knuckles rapped over and over again just to do basic things correctly.”

Scottish Water announced last week it had taken over four waste water treatment works around Aberdeen – Nigg, Peterhead, Persley and Fraserburgh – which were managed under a PFI contract by Kelda Water Services Ltd.

The Nigg plant, in particular, had also been the subject of repeated complaints about odours in the neighbourhood.

Scottish Water said its takeover would allow it to “deliver value for customers through changes including shared purchasing with Scottish Water’s waste water operations and optimisation of the works with waste water networks”.

The move prompted questions about whether a similar takeover could happen at Seafield.

Mr Kirkwood said: “I would welcome the end of PFI at Seafield. I think everyone would welcome that down here. I’m not sure what benefit it gives.

“I know there is tremendous tension between Scottish Water and the PFI company because contracts are so vague and there are always arguments about who is responsible for what.

“PFI, from our point of view, has not worked at Seafield. Their main concern is to generate as much money as possible.

“They have invested heavily in thermal hydrolysis which turns sludge into pellets which get sold on to farmers. So instead of investing where we would have liked them to, in the tanks, they have directed it to the part of the plant that will give them money.”

A Scottish Water spokeswoman said: “The purchase of the Aberdeen PFI project has been possible because Kelda Water Services indicated in late 2016 its intention to sell. We are not aware of other PFI owners who intend to sell.

“As PFI’s come to their end we will look at each on a case-by-case basis with a view to securing the reliability and resilience of services as well as value for money for our customers.”

A Veolia spokesman said the company specialised in the operation of over 3000 wastewater plants worldwide.

He said: “We remain committed to continuing our PFI operations in Scotland and to providing a valuable service to Scottish Water and the communities served. Seafield treats around 16 billion toilet flushes each year, recycling 30,000 tons of bio-resources for use in agriculture and generating renewable electricity in line with UK and Scottish Governments environmental targets. Seafield is managed in accordance with an agreed odour management plan and a tight regulatory framework with which Veolia is fully compliant.”