Sunday Herald identifies ‘toxic sludge lagoon’ in Argyll

Yesterday’s Sunday Herald (5th August) carried an exclusive by Environment Editor, Rob Edwards, revealing the existence of 26 ‘toxic sludge lagoons’ across Scotland – one in Argyll.

These are the residue of water and sewage treatments from the days when these were local authority responsibilities.

SEPA – the Scottish Environmental Protection agency – told Rob Edwards that 18 of the 26 lagoons originated in this way and were inherited by Scottish Water when it came into being on 2002.

It makes no mention of the origins of the other 8 lagoons.

The health risks

The toxicity in the sludge comes from treatment-based pollutants, including the major worry of the aluminium once used to purify drinking water.

SEPA has told Edwards that there is a concern about aluminium leaching out of these lagoons – although it would characteristically bond with the sludge, which would lessen this possibility.

Aluminium is dangerous to the health both of humans and wildlife, linked in humans to breast cancer and Alzheimers disease.

The current situation

SEPA is quoted as saying that ‘most’ of the lagoons are contained within the curtilages of existing Scottish Water works and are being ‘maintained and managed’ ‘to some extent’.

This statement raises several obvious questions:

  • How many of the lagoon are outside existing Scottish Water works?
  • What precisely does ‘being maintained’ mean? How do you ‘maintain’ such a feature.
  • What precisely does ‘being managed’ mean? How do you ‘manage’ such a feature.
  • What happens with the unspecified number not within current Scottish Water works sites and not being maintained or managed?
  • Which specific sites are outside the curtilages of existing Scottish Water works?

The Argyll lagoon

The Edwards article for the Sunday Herald identifies Argyll and Bute as one of the local authority areas where one of these 26 toxic sludge lagoons is located.

Its location map pinpoints and names the village of Furnace on Loch Fyne.

The community is naturally concerned, was unaware of the existence of the lagoon and cannot identify anywhere in Scottish Water’s current works where it may be sited.

For Argyll has asked Scottish Water the following questions and will publish the response when it arrives:

  • What is the history of this particular sludge lagoon?
  • Where is it is located?
  • How big is it?.
  • What measures are in place to monitor and test for aluminium leakage?
  • What are the results of such monitoring.
  • How and when will this lagoons be treated and its toxic potential neutralised or securely contained.
  • What are the risks to public health – and directly to local residents?

If this – and other – lagoons are located close to fresh or sea water lochs, rivers, burns or farm drains, the possible leaching of aluminium is even more serious.

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