Kelsonians urged to speak up about smell

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KELSO residents are being urged to report every unpleasant smell they detect over the next few months in an attempt to build a case for more cash from the Scottish Government to rectify ongoing odour problems at the town’s sewage treatment works.

The plea came at the first meeting of the Kelso Waste Water Treatment Works Stakeholder Group, which took place on Tuesday night in the town’s Cross Keys Hotel.

The group was set up to work with Scottish Water to find a solution to the continuing problems at the treatment works, and includes representatives from Scottish Water, residents’ representatives, local councillors and local MSP John Lamont.

Commenting after the meeting, Mr Lamont said a solution needed to be found for the problem, which had plagued hundreds of the town’s residents for years. “There was a frank exchange of views about the ongoing problems and we again highlighted the concerns that we have received from residents about the treatment works,” he said.

“It is clear that the money spent by Scottish Water attempting to fix the problem has not worked. They will now instruct consultants to carry out a study so they can identify what needs to be done to get a solution.

“As part of their investigation, these consultants will speak to residents about their experiences, and will then report back with their findings.

“I have also tabled a question in the Scottish Parliament on the Government’s plans to assist in sorting out the problems.”

Local Scottish Borders councillor Tom Weatherston commented: “It is important that local residents report every single odour incident to the Scottish Water contact centre during the next few months as this will help to build the case for additional funding from the Government.

“The stakeholder group will meet again in May once we know the results of the consultant’s study and we will continue to keep residents updated on progress.

“There is still a lot of work to do before we have a lasting solution to the problems, but it looks like some progress is being made.”

Back in October, TheSouthern reported how 150 angry Kelso residents had descended on a customer information evening in the town’s Tait Hall to vent their anger over unpleasant smells caused by the treatment facility.

Scottish Water’s Borders manager Bill Elliot told us back then that the organisation had addressed the smell issues which occurred during the summer, blaming it on sludge being washed into the works by heavy rains, which killed off the natural bacteria which help to biologically break down the waste water.

However, speaking after this week’s stakeholder group meeting, Mr Elliot told us Scottish Water is now working closely with residents in Kelso to “keep them informed on any potential issues with the waste water treatment works”.

And he added: “This is exactly why the stakeholder group has been established, with elected members and residents’ representatives involved in direct communication with myself and our treatment operatives. It is important that we continue this level of liaison in order to find a solution for all parties.”

The town’s smelly sewage works also cropped up at this month’s meeting of Kelso Community Council, when the subject of mysterious midnight tanker missions was raised.

Scottish Water chiefs told The Southern there were no unusual procedures being conducted at the works, but this will come as a surprise to community councillors.

Chairing the recent community council meeting in the absence of Provost Fiona Scott, vice-chairman John Bassett told fellow members that sewage from the local treatment works was being pumped into tankers during the night and then transported away elsewhere. Councillor Weatherston added: “At this time, Kelso has not got a sewage works. What we have got is a holding status.

“The sewage is being taken away somewhere else during the night.”

Mr Bassett claimed problems at the sewage works were related to the small size of the facility.

“Our local sewage treatment works were not built for a town the size that Kelso has become,” he said.

But speaking this week, a Scottish Water spokesperson told TheSouthern there was nothing unusual about the tanker shipments.

“These transportations, carried out during working hours only, are part of the routine operation of the waste water facility and Scottish Water’s wider treatment procedure in the Borders,” he said.

“This is part of the routine operation of the facility. It is the removal of sludge, not sewage.”

Told of Scottish Water’s comments, Councillor Weatherston commented: “Yes, but it still backs up my theory that at this moment in time Kelso sewage works is a holding facility and the treatment is being done in Gala, sometimes there are two tankers in per day.”