Welcome back peddle by Scottish Water for Gairloch residents over sewage treatment system

13 April 2018

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant says Scottish Water’s withdrawal of its application for a new sewage system for Gairloch is “a victory for common sense”.

“It will be welcomed by the numerous constituents from Wester Ross who have written to me incensed and anxious about the proposed system which would have left bacteria and sewage filtering into the sea for part of the year,” she said.

“However the water authority has be criticised for that making a real hash of this decision making process – asking the community what they want, giving them what they don’t want, only to go back to the community yet again!

“I’m hoping this can be settled once and for all to the satisfaction of the people of this area. It’s gone on long enough.

“This beautiful location deserves the best quality water, both for those who make a living from the sea and those who enjoy it for leisure activities.”

Previously Mrs Grant put First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on the spot over the plans.

At First Minister’s Questions, Mrs Grant said:

“I have been inundated with messages from constituents in Gairloch Wester Ross, incensed and anxious about the decision by SEPA to approve a licence for a new ultra-violet treatment system which is only operational for the peak tourist and bathing season, leaving the rest of the year with an inferior, down-graded system allowing bacteria and sewage into the sea.

"Can I ask the First Minister is she thinks this is acceptable for some of our most beautiful coastline or will her Government step in and intervene to protect water quality in the area?”

Ms Sturgeon expressed a “great degree of sympathy with the question that has been asked and the sentiment behind that question” and “absolutely understood” why it had been raised.

But the First Minister went on to say there was a formal process that had to be gone through in these cases.

Mrs Grant has already contacted Scottish Government’s Environment Secretary, Roseanna Cunningham, about the Gairloch sewage treatment saga asking for her to step in.

SEPA had approved plans by Scottish Water to have sewage treated for only part of the year as it meets licensing standards, much to the dismay of local residents who are campaigning for year-round treatment.

The community of Gairloch submitted applications to SEPA for Bathing Water status at Gairloch and Big Sands following the original plans proposed by Scottish Water and the community was granted Bathing Water status.

Scottish Water responded to a bathing waters designation by revising its initial proposals to change to include the use of ultra violet disinfection – but only during the bathing water season between 1st June and 15th September.

Scottish Water, then applied to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) for a licence for the replacement system.