Seafield worker “Mr Gardyloo” on 40 years handling city’s sewage

Ian Carnevale has worked at Seafield since before its opening in April 1978.
Ian Carnevale has worked at Seafield since before its opening in April 1978.
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Meet “Mr Gardyloo” – the worker who has spent 40 years surrounded by the stench of Seafield treatment plant.

It processes 300 million litres of waste water every day – enough to fill 121 Olympic-sized swimming pools – and worker Ian Carnevale, 62, from Dalkeith has been there since it first opened four decades ago.

Dedicating his career to ridding the city of waste, he said: “We knew the job had to be done and was benefitting the whole city.”

In February 1978, Ian – then aged 22 – joined Lothian Regional Council and began working at Seafield ahead of its official opening.

In the early days he was one of only ten members of staff and had to flush out many below bog-standard issues.

He said: “We had to pull dead birds, vermin and even dogs out when they got caught in the screens with the bricks, stones and chuckies. Our main role was to take grit, rags, and solid waste out from the liquid, which was then piped straight into the Forth.

“We had to be careful as we got a lot of cuts and grazes and used to be given regular injections due to the type of stuff we were handling.”

The site used to treat and separate waste water from untreated sewage disposed of in the Forth via the MV Gardyloo ship.

A shift system was quickly introduced and Ian moved to work as a process operator under the wing of process controller Les, known as “Taffy”.

Ian said: “Taffy taught me a lot but most of my memories of him relate to gardening. Back then there were flowerbeds instead of grass. Taffy made sure we looked after our section of flowerbeds. He took great pride in his roses and tending to the flowers was definitely one of the more pleasurable sides of the job.”

In 1984, when Taffy retired Ian was promoted into his role as process controller where he stayed for 15 years.

By then the MV Gardyloo had been taken out of service, and the site was expanded to 20 acres serving 800,000 people across Edinburgh and the Lothians.

“Working and loading the Gardyloo was hard work which was particularly foul in the summer,” Ian recalled. “We did the loading from the dock side and then had to clean out our tanks by hand.”

Local residents have long campaigned against the notorious “Seafield stench” and have recently hailed advice by a legal expert which they say means their complaints about the sewage works have been mishandled for decades.

Scottish Water said in the last eight years they have invested £34 million into Seafield installing equipment to improve odour issues.