Utility accused of being slow with clearing the sewage flow

L-r, Audrey Barrie of 'The Cobblers' and Blair Finlay of 'Finlay Grant' in Melrose alongside a manhole that overflowed with sewage at new year time.
L-r, Audrey Barrie of 'The Cobblers' and Blair Finlay of 'Finlay Grant' in Melrose alongside a manhole that overflowed with sewage at new year time.

SCOTTISH Water has been accused of a lack of action over an incident in the centre of Melrose last week which saw raw sewage erupting from a drain cover and being left to cover a pavement for days.

Among those who reported the noxious issue was Blair Finlay from the Finlay Grant clothing shop in the town square. He told TheSouthern he had first reported the blocked drain last Wednesday, but says he had noticed small amounts of sewage escaping from the drain in the weeks leading up to New Year.

Sewage in Melrose

Sewage in Melrose

He was dismayed, firstly by the lack of response from Scottish Water and then by the reaction from Scottish Borders Council environmental health staff.

“What I found surprising in reporting this to Scottish Water is that it was not regarded as a priority – only if it is inside a building does it became a priority. I also spoke with the council and again was surprised that they don’t take any responsibility for cleaning this, saying that they leave such matters to Scottish Water,” said Mr Finlay.

“This has been happening since the summer, with this current episode over the festive holidays. Several business say they reported the problem, and I myself lodged a report on January 4, but two days later it was still there. I was also told that it was on New Year’s Eve when the problem got really bad.

“It just seems very odd, in a time of concern about the spread of super-viruses, that neither the council nor Scottish Water thought it important to clear human sewage from a high street.”

Mr Finlay also told us that the cones and tape used to cordon off the offending patch of sewage were supplied and erected – not by either water or council workers – but by himself and a local council street cleaner.

“It was not until Saturday that the sewage was cleaned away by Scottish Water staff,” added Mr Finlay. “And in their report on the incident they say they cleaned the choked drain, but were unable to detect the cause of the problem.

“Apparently, the matter has now been passed to Scottish Water’s engineering department for further investigation.”

Asked to comment, a Scottish Water spokesperson told us: “The sewer rising in Market Square, Melrose, was first reported to Scottish Water on January 4.

“This was a busy period for our operatives, with a number of such chokes across the region. Engineers attended a few days later to unblock the waste-water network and carry out a clean up.

“This was complicated by the location of the manhole, between parked cars, on a busy street.

“We apologise for any inconvenience this issue may have caused.”

Council leader David Parker is a local councillor for Melrose and says the local authority has an excellent relationship with Scottish Water, and if there is an ongoing sewage problem then it is very straightforward to get it investigated and resolved.

However, Mr Parker added that matters involving sewage are issues solely for Scottish Water and local authority environmental health staff would not be involved.

He told TheSouthern: “I was in the square at the New Year celebrations – the fireworks were tremendous – and I didn’t notice any sewage.

“I spoke to many people that night and nothing was said to me, but I would certainly be very happy to investigate the issue further if your readers are concerned.”