Heavy metal is the fallout from burning Scotland's shit - the Scottish sewage scandal no one wants to talk about
The overflow of sewage at Seafield Wastewater Treatment Plant in Leith on Friday has been treated by the press in a curious way as a single environmental spill - albeit of 1,000 litres of shit laden untreated water entering the Firth of Forth every second.
The treatment of shit in Scotland is little better than in Third World countries.
First. Let's look at Seaforth which handles the waste water of 800,000 people in and around Edinburgh and more in the summer. Scottish Water (part of Thames Water) produces more than 110,000 tonnes of sewage sludge each year, and has a duty under EU law to utilise the material beneficially wherever possible.
* 48% is converted to a fuel and used in electricity generation (all to Longannet)
* 27% is applied to non-agricultural land
* 23% is applied to agricultural land
* 2% is disposed of to landfill
The system takes in a single stream of sewage which is a mixture of drained water from streets and surface drains, and "dirty" wastes from toilet systems making treatment more difficult. As a consequence it contains a horrible cocktail of products which cause all sort of environmental problems. Oestrogen mimetics in water courses affect fish and if re-cycled in drinking water have unknown but are suspected to cause problems in humans.
As the human is the end of a food chain , it tends to produce in it's waste the accumulated toxins and heavy metals, for example if bottom feeding fish store up cadmium, or musels store lead , which is then eaten by humans this enters the waste chain. For example in studies published in 1999 by the SPA "Inputs (into the Firth of Forth) of cadmium are in the range of 15/18 tons per annum and accounts for 80% of the total and the Seafield output constitutes 90% of the total. Lead as determined by concentration in mussels 1-3 ugl is well within the EQS guideline of 30ugl. Nickel is another heavy metal whose principle source is the STW terminal and shows concentrations in the range of 0.5 ugl against and EQL of 30ugl. Lead has n EQL of 30ugl and a value of 1-2 ugl but is found in concentrations of 15 ugl in mussels. - some 15 tons enter the Firth of Forth every year, and has declined since the introduction of unleaded petrol.
The corollary of the above figures is that these elements are concentrated in the sludge, which is then pelletised and fed in Scotland into the Longannet Power Station (After Drax in Yorkshire the 2nd biggest in the UK and 3rd in Europe and produces 25% of SCotlan's electricity) . This is augnented by all the (approx 54,000 tons annually) sludge from Glasgow, transported to the Daldowie Sludge Treatment Centre near Uddingston (40 miles by road from Longannet) where it is dried and converted into pellets (dried biosolids). The pellets are sent to Longannet Power Station near Kincardine for co-combustion to generate electricity. (See Scottish Power profile here)
You have maybe been seduced by the levels of "biomass" used for producing power - well a great deal of that is undertaken by a mixed firing of coal and shit. Rob Edwards, the Herald's environmental editor under the Freedom of Information Act' has revealed that this has it's hazards - according to ScottishPower data, the emission of lead (in mg/Nm³) goes from 7, for coal burning, to 29 (a 400% increase), for a mixed charge of coal and shit. (Longannet emissions ‘kill 690 Europeans every year’from Sunday Herald, 26 February 2006)
"Using a technique to assess impacts on health developed for the European Union, a leading British air pollution expert, Dr Mike Holland, surveyed and ranked the most polluting plants in the 25 EU countries plus Norway and Switzerland.Distributing raw sewage either on agricultural land or forestry demands monitoring - the Scottish Environment Protection (SEPA)aganecy neither tests the sewage nor after application the land for presence of micro-organisms.
Longannet, run by Scottish Power, on the Firth of Forth, came out the worst in the UK and seventh worst in Europe. Only power stations in Poland and Spain belch out more harmful pollution."
Well it is very simple why this happens.
This process has been regulated by SEPA under a Pollution Prevention and Control Permit to control emissions from this plant. However, in Dec 2004 Lord Reed refused to grant the declarator sought by Scottish Power that waste derived fuel, namely dried sewage sludge pellets, is not waste. It was considered that sludge is sufficiently hazardous for it not to be given an exemption. The judgement did not require that Scottish Power immediately stop burning the sewage sludge pellets at Longannet. Scottish Power has the option to upgrade the Longannet Power Station to meet the requirements of the Waste Incineration Directive. If it chooses not to upgrade, then the requirements of the Directive are such that Scottish Power will require to discontinue burning waste by 28 December 2005.
What happened on 29th December 2005?
Well, having done fuck all about solving the problems, rather than seek alternatives and uphold the law, Scottish Power with the blessing of the Scottish Executive's environmental watchdog, SEPA, (the agency that is intended to enforce the law and protect the public) decided to just break the law and carry on burning around half of Scotland's sewage waste.
That's right Scottish Power and SEPA simply agreed to ignore the cort's judgement and break the law.
As Mark Ruskell MSP, Green Environment Speaker and Deputy Convener of the Parliament's Environment and Rural Development Committee said: "The Scottish Executive's hands-off approach to getting a grip on Scotland's sewage disposal problem is unacceptable, we are not only breaking the law but are sleepwalking into an environmental crisis. The Executive urgently needs a strategy to deal with the vast amounts of sludge that will start backing up soon. Disposal out at sea is banned, and there are pollution worries about burning it and spreading it on land, that leaves a huge problem of where to put it. Digging sludge into contaminated land such as old coalfields and forestry land makes sense, but we don't have regulations in place to make sure that the quality of the sludge is good enough or that it is applied in a way that doesn't smell or cause pollution to rivers."
The Greens have today called for a change in the way the Seafield plant is run -
"The primary treatment plant is medieval, the worst performing sewage plant in the Western world, with a modern secondary plant clumsily added onto it. When the PFI management took over, they scrapped the night teams who used to deal with this kind of accident, and now, after 4pm there's only ever one person on site. What's more, all the experienced staff left the site when the PFI contract came in, and new, unqualified staff were recruited.
"We need massive investment in the site, the same sort of investment that similar sewage plants elsewhere are receiving, and we need proper oversight and enforcement over the site. We've been telling the Labour and Lib Dem Executive for six years that that this plant is a disaster waiting to happen. Local residents have had enough of their inaction."
"Labour’s Deputy Environment Minister Sarah Boyack had recently announced a £30 million plan to finance much needed improvements at Edinburgh’s Seafield sewage works. However, according to local residents, the pot of money is to cover all PFI sewage treatment works in Scotland, not just Seafield, so the work to fit covers to the primary tanks dealing with the sludge will not go ahead."
It's about time that someone gave the public the detailed information about what is happening to the air round Longannet from burning all this shit with it's demonstrable load of heavy metals... of course somebody could ask Mr Salmond what plans the SNP have for all the shit in Scotland.