Concerns remain despite improvements to Borders waste water infrastructure

NASTY odours, drinking water tasting of chlorine, flooding and sewage bubbling up in the street were all issues three senior officials from Scottish water found themselves being bombarded with when they appeared before a special local authority committee last week, writes Mark Entwistle.

The purpose of the briefing session was for Scottish Water to provide an update on its activity in the Borders to Scottish Borders Council’s scrutiny panel.

More than 50,000 Borders households are customers of Scottish Water and the company has 13 treatment works and 93 waste water treatment works, utilising 1,004 miles of water mains and 576 miles of sewer pipes.

Alan Thomson, head of strategic liaison at Scottish Water, told councillors the situation is an improving picture with more than £33million invested in improvements between 2006 and 2010. The bad smell highlighted at the meeting was the long-running saga of noxious odours reported in Kelso, which have been blamed on the local waste water treatment works.

However, the Scottish Water representatives told the panel that since it had carried out all the recommended measures contained in an independent report, there were now very few complaints.

But Councillor Gavin Logan said he did not accept there was no longer an odour problem at Kelso.

“Scottish Water denied there was an odour problem at Caddonfoot when there was and it denied there was a problem in Kelso,” he said.

Councillor Logan also raised the situation in the Clovenfords/Walkerburn/Innerleithen area, where there have been concerns that the waste water pipe is not large enough.

“When you have sewage bubbling up in the street, it shouldn’t take a month to fix,” said Councillor Logan. “And it can only get worse with all the development that is planned for this area. Mr Thomson said it was Scottish Water’s aim to support more deveopment as this generated more customers.

He explained that if a development application for more houses was granted, Scottish Water would assess the local water treatment infrastructure in the area and see what capacity was needed.

“If we find we need to make that particular facility bigger, then we will. If it is going to cause problems we will enter into a debate with the developer on that. That is something the developer would pay for and Scottish Water would make a make a contribution.”

Councillor Kenneth Gunn raised the issue of water tasting of chlorine in parts of Selkirk, despite £10million being spent on local treatment works.

On the chlorine issue, Mr Elliot said there were not a lot of complaints from Selkirk customers about chlorine.

“Everyone has a different palate,” he said. “We use a very low dose of chlorine which poses no health risk, does not exceed acceptable parameters and is necessary to eradicate any water-borne diseases.”

The Scottish Water officials were also asked if their organisation was going to make a financial contribution to the £680,000 cost of recent work caried out by the council to prevent flooding at Newcastleton.

Scottish Water has had problems accessing cash to contribute towards the cost as the problem had been caused by rainwater spilling from curtilage, roofs and the road, which are all SBC’s responsibility.

“But we are looking to see if there is some money that can be brought to the table for this,” said Mr Thomson.

The scrutiny panel’s finding was that Scottish Water and SBC were working well together, but councillors still had concerns about capacity in waste water infrastructure in some communities.

It was agreed to recommend to the SBC executive that the local authority continue its co-operation with Scottish Water to improve the waste water infrastructure in the region.