A WESTER Ross community has described plans to modify its water and sewage treatment works as an “outrage” because of fears it will affect the health of people in the sea off its scenic beaches.
Scottish Water has applied to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency for permission to extend the current outfall of the waste water from the Gairloch treatment works at Fasaich to a “suitable discharge point” in the sea at Loch Gairloch.
Scottish Water has already received planning permission from Highland Council for the construction work needed to replace the existing membrane treatment process with a system involving underground septic tanks.
The application for planning permission was approved earlier this year, despite objections from 16 individuals and Gairloch Community Council who feared the proposal represented a downgrading of the treatment process which would result in contaminated effluent flowing into the sea.
It is now apparent the opposition from the village has not died down, as Gairloch Community Council has sent in an objection to Scottish Water’s Controlled Activities Regulations (CAR) licence application to SEPA to extend the current outfall pipe by 25 metres.
The objection, sent by the community council’s secretary Fran Cree, says the proposal to discharge water with primary treatment only means a high level of pathogens and other pollutants remaining in the outfall water being pumped into the sea loch – which is completely unacceptable.
It states: “The solution to a more cost-effective disposal of sewerage should and must not be to the detriment of the health and economy of this fragile community.
“A more appropriate solution which does not impact on the pristine environment of this remote corner of Scotland should be researched and implemented.
“The community feels SEPA is charged with protecting our environment from the archaic practices now being proposed by Scottish Water in the name of cost-cutting.
“Direct discharge into the sea or water course from septic tanks has legislatively long since been replaced by good soakaway construction or small treatment equipment for individual developments out with the public drainage area.
“It would be an outrage should the public sewerage processing facility be of a poorer standard than that required by the private household.”
The objection says Scottish Water has gone for the cost-effective solution of installing primary treatment tanks, not bothering to remove bacteria and viruses, and spending money on a longer pipe to make sure they are distributed around the Gairloch bay area.
Bathing water classification has since been applied for, because the golf club and Big Sands beaches are regularly used for swimming, snorkelling and general watersports.
The letter states there is an active dinghy sailing club, a local shellfish and crustacean industry, and marine watching boat trips in the bay.
“All of these users will have their health andor income impacted by increases in viruses and bacteria in the water,” states the objection.
A report by Scottish Water to support its application says the existing membrane treatment process used at the Gairloch works is unreliable to operate and maintain.
“We therefore want to change how we treat the waste water to make it more reliable and sustainable,” says the Scottish Water statement.
“The new septic tank process will achieve the environmental discharge quality requirements, with a lower carbon footprint, using a more sustainable and proven technology with an extended outfall.”
Scottish Water says it has obtained planning approval for the redevelopment of the treatment site and it is now applying to SEPA for a licence to extend the current outfall by 25 metres to a suitable discharge point.
“In parallel with the CAR Licence we will also apply to Marine Scotland for a Marine Licence construction consent,” it states.
“Subject to approval of the licences, work will begin on site in late autumn 2016 and last until late spring 2017.
“We have assessed the impact of the proposed changes to the treatment and extension of the outfall and confirmed that it will comply with the current environmental designations.”
Scottish Water concluded by saying: “We now understand that the community has applied for bathing water designation on the beaches nearby. This application is still to be determined, but Scottish Water will work with SEPA to ensure our discharge meets their environmental standards.”
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