Spreading of sewage sludge to land - impacts on human health and the environment: community concerns

This workshop summary report is part of the research project undertaken by the James Hutton Institute on the impacts on human health and environment arising from the spreading of sewage sludge to land (CR/2016/23).

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Who are you, why are you here?

Following a short introduction of the facilitators, a brief overview of the agenda and an explanation of the "rules of engagement", (ethics procedures, preserving anonymity and mutual respect), the participants were asked to introduce themselves. They included members of the Avonbridge and Standburn community council local residents and invited citizens from other affected communities in Scotland who wished to raise concerns and learn more about sewage sludge in general. In total 26 people attended (10 men and 16 women).

In order to understand why people attended the meeting they were asked to write their reasons on post-it notes.

Their reasons were diverse and are recorded in appendix 1 but they could be clustered into 5 main categories:

  • Concerns around health and wellbeing, primarily of people but also livestock.
  • Odour (from the treatment works and following sludge application)
  • Apparent violations of regulations by the sludge contractors and lack of regulation
  • Concerns about pollution of the local environment, land and waterways.
  • To question the need for this [use of sewage sludge in agricultural production] practice

Later in the workshop participants were asked to nominate which of the concerns were most important to them. 'Pollution of the local environment' (8 votes) and 'violation of regulations and lack of regulation' (8 votes) received most nominations, followed by concerns about the 'odour' (6 votes) then 'effects on human health and well-being', 'animal health' and 'why are we still doing it?' (4 votes). The exercise helped the researchers understand the participants motivations for attending the workshop.


Email: gary.gray@gov.scot

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