Update on the ‘Seafield Stench’

by Jim Scanlon

On Tuesday, 20th June, as Chair of Leith Links Community Council, I attended a meeting with Roseanna Cunningham MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, regarding the ongoing odour emissions at Seafield Sewage Plant.

Also attending the meeting were Rob Kirkwood, Chair of the Leith Links Residents Association (LLRA), Ben Macpherson MSP, Professor Rob Jackson, a scientific expert who advises LLRA, Rob Munn, advisor to Ben MacPherson, and Scottish Government Civil Servants and special advisors.

The Cabinet Secretary was questioned about the CREW (Centre of expertise for waters) report on Odour Management and monitoring in Scottish wastewater treatment plants that was commissioned by Scottish Government.  The report said that odours are rare, sites are managed effectively, local councils and SEPA enforce regulations and that legislation governing sewage works is fit for purpose and doesn’t need changed.

We disagreed profoundly and suggested that the minister had been poorly briefed about Scotland’s sewage works.

Professor Jackson, appointed by Scottish Water to work with the community, said that in terms of academic research, the report was deeply flawed and the conclusions of the report were unsound:  information had been gathered only by sending questionnaires to a small sample of sewage work managers, council employees and SEPA. There had been no independent enquiries, no site visits and no consultation with the local populations. Some technical information was incorrect.

The Minister seemed sympathetic and after further discussion over the odour nuisance, possible causes, and the future effects of climate change, Ms. Cunningham has ordered a strategic review of Seafield, and of the existing Code of Practice and legislation governing odour emissions..

Terms of Reference for this review have been drawn up but we feel they have not gone far enough so we have since written to Scottish Government with our concerns (also raised by Leith Links Residents Association).

We feel that the review should not just focus on Seafield as the Code of Practice covers the whole of Scotland, and there are known problems in other plants. Also, the proposed Terms of Reference specify looking at the operation, design and management of Seafield i.e. focusing on how they ‘manage’ odours. But at the last stakeholder meeting both Veolia, who operate Seafield, and City of Edinburgh Council Public Health officials acknowledged that not only management improvements but also investment and changes in infrastructure are needed. The terms of reference should therefore include assessing the costs of covering the sewage tanks at Seafield and similar plants throughout Scotland to eliminate odours for good, rather than just to ‘minimize’ them.

Once the Terms of Reference for the review are agreed, a tender will be put out for an independent firm of constructional engineering consultants, to look at the plant procedures and equipment and to estimate the capital investment required.

Leith Links Community Council will continue to represent the community, working with LLRA, to monitor events closely, make sure the review is done quickly but professionally and that conclusions are acted on.

 

The Seafield Stench – latest update

by Leith Links Community Councillors Eileen Simpson & Jim Scanlon

Permalink http://www.leithlinkscc.org.uk/the-seafield-stench-latest-update/

Leith Links Community Council (LLCC) attended a ‘Stakeholders’ Meeting’ held on Friday 19 May at the Seafield Waste Water Treatment Plant. These meetings take place 2-3 times a year. The group is made up of representatives from:

  • Veolia (the French-based multinational company who manage the plant, on a PFI contract)
  • SEPA (Scottish Environmental Protection Agency),
  • Scottish Water (publicly owned statutory corporation providing water and sewerage services across Scotland),
  • City of Edinburgh Council officials
  • Elected politicians – local councillors and MSP (Chair)
  • Local interest groups (LLCC and Leith Links Residents Association (LLRA)).

The role of Leith Links Community Council is to speak up for, and to fight for the local community, by working together with others to end the disgusting smells and potentially toxic emissions from the sewage plant, that local residents have had to put up with for years. Along with LLRA, we champion the rights of local residents and try to hold to account the companies and the Council that have so far failed to remedy this odour nuisance situation.

Attending these meetings for several years, we have listened again and again to past and present operators explaining plant and management failures that have caused the terrible stench. However, at this meeting, because there had been so many of your complaints about the dreadful smells for over a fortnight in late April-early May 2017, there was– unusually, for once – no attempt to suggest things were OK or improving, and the Veolia Senior Site Manager, who does not normally attend, started off with a major apology, acknowledging that Veolia failed the community (and has commercially suffered with reputational damage as a result).

These were the main outcomes of what was a challenging meeting. The first is the most significant:

  • TheGood Housekeeping’ approach was agreed to be inadequate

It was finally acknowledged that the smells cannot be eliminated or even minimised just by ‘good housekeeping’ – which has been the official position until now. It was publicly admitted that the plant is out of date and prone to problems, and needs significant new capital investment. Getting to this stage is a major achievement.

  • Burning rubber smells

Acknowledging that these were caused by a separate leakage of toxic gases, and that there have been recent recurrences of this, Veolia has now invested in a new ‘Vent Air Burner’ for the filter which was causing the leaks. This will be fitted in July and we are assured that there will be no more emissions from this filter. (But if you smell it, report it right away!)

  • Sludge spillage smells

SEPA took enforcement action against Veolia Water for spilling sludge (again!) and causing the noxious odours in the community in April-May. However, there was no financial penalty associated with enforcement. City of Edinburgh Council could have taken their own Enforcement Action but didn’t. Officials said that they had written to Veolia informing them that they would have taken action had SEPA not done so.

It is disappointing that no stronger action was taken by either SEPA or the Council, after the recent protracted series of terrible odour emissions.

It was highly ironic that as we left the building after the meeting, we noticed smells!  And later in the day (2pm-8pm approx) these became extreme. However it is heartening for us to hear that the Council received very many calls from local people about this, and sent out a team to respond. We wait to hear if any enforcement action takes place.

Complaint calls result in specially trained Council officials visiting home owners and using the ‘sniff’ test. If they record a smell as ‘strong and persistent’ (which, informally, on many visits they have admitted to us that they do perceive it as) it should be classed as a ‘statutory nuisance’. Will the City Council take any action this time?

  • Scottish Government Review

We knew that a Review of the Code of Practice covering Seafield was in process, and had been led to believe that local representatives would be able to contribute to this.

However a letter to MSP Ben MacPherson from Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, made it clear that the review process was already complete, and that reviewers found that:

(plants are)‘…well run, and incidents which give rise to malodour are very rare’.

And that ‘there are a low number of incidents and enforcement is available when required’.

These findings definitely bear no relationship to the smelly reality we all experience! Ben MacPherson MSP has now arranged a meeting with the Minister to discuss this and has asked for community representation. We hope to be able to clarify how wrong the findings are, in no uncertain terms, and to press for urgent capital investment in the plant.

But who will pay for this is likely to be the ‘big question’….

  • Easier reporting

In the meantime, Council staff are working on putting in place a more straightforward method of reporting smell nuisance, and this should be available very soon after the general election.

Legal Redress?

Ben MacPherson MSP has established that a new Expenses and Funding of Civil Litigation Bill will be introduced at Holyrood in this Parliamentary year. The Bill will include provisions to allow for the introduction of a multi-party action procedure in Scotland. If that gets voted through, it means that, for the first time, members of the community affected by the Seafield smells may be able to seek legal redress against those responsible. Interesting…..

Meanwhile – Keep Complaining!

Even though you may all be tired of complaining, please be assured that is definitely not pointless: the overwhelming number of complaints in recent weeks (far more than in the whole of the previous financial year) is having a significant effect. Complaint calls and emails are the main way by which the Council assesses the level of smell nuisance.

So it is VITAL that we all keep reporting every smell we notice from Seafield, using the following numbers/email address. It is particularly important that any burning rubber smell is reported immediately (scc@sepa.org.uk)

Thank you for taking action. We will continue to fight on your behalf.

 

Are you affected by the Seafield stink?

Many residents within our area have reported that they have been adversely affected by nuisance foul odours from the Seafield Waste Water Treatment Works operated by Scottish Water and Veolia Water UK.

Leith Links Community Council is aware of these concerns and we are members of the Seafield Stakeholders Group which meets regularly to discuss matters relating to the works.

We would encourage any residents who are adversely affected by nuisance foul odours from the works to ensure that this is reported, at the time, on each and every occasion. We cannot underestimate the importance of this.

We have previously distributed leaflets (pictured) to households in our area encouraging people to report any foul odours.

Please report sewage type smells to the City of Edinburgh Council using these details:

Please report burning rubber type smells to the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency:

  • 0800 80 70 60 (24 hours, 7 days)

Seafield smells | Don’t give up, please always complain

There continues to be cause for complaint by local residents due to ongoing nuisance odours from the Seafield Sewage Works.

Whilst Leith Links Residents Association and Leith Links Community Council continue to fight for a resolution it is vitally important that those affected by any nuisance odour report such instances, at the time, every time.

The more reports made the better.  Even if a neighbour or someone nearby phones & complains, you should still complain too.

Burning type smells should be reported to;

Sewage type smells should be reported to;