Responsibility and Accountability for testing for contamination of water supplies

Posted Category: News, Water Contamination

Scottish Government approved Whitelee and its extensions under S36, but the conditions for development were devolved to the Local Authority to enforce. This is completely unreasonable in terms of governance.

No one seems to take responsibility for proscribing either what test parameters are required ( eg hydrocarbons) or what the  test intervals should be. So as in the case at Whitelees, it was 7 years of drinking polluted water ( – although East Ayrshire Council had had some historical water test data showing that a LOW level of intermittent bacterial contamination in @ 1986- 1990 was present (though not conveyed to the 10 householders on the supply) No one independently scrutinises the developers risk assessment of Public Water Supply and yet this is so important.

Scottish Power Renewables have said (in writing) that they’re not responsible for public water supplies!

There is complete lack of accountability between the developer and Local Authority in terms of who is responsible for ensuring water test results were available not just to the Local Authority, but to the residents involved. East Ayrshire Council didn’t get any test results until 2013.

At Cruach Mor windfarm- (Scottish Power Renewables) it is even worse. Not only did they have gross bacterial contamination, but their water supply was frequently  interupted to the point that, with no water,  in the middle of winter residents had to stay in a hotel!! Eventually, Scottish Power Renewables had to pipe in an alternative mains supply as vast cost.

Scottish Power Renewables are about to start construction of a 96 turbine development on very deep peat at Kilgallioch wind farm which is the catchment area of the rivers Bladnoch and Tarff within the zones of the protected Galloway and South Ayrshire Biosphere.

Biosphere status is recognised by UNESCO under the Man and the Biosphere Programme for “areas which innovate and demonstrate innovative approaches to sustainable development and conservation at a regional scale”. UNESCO Biosphere status, granted in July 2012, has added global recognition that a large part of south west Scotland has significance as a special place for people and nature. This has been captured in the aspiration of the Biosphere Partnership which is to help make Galloway and Southern Ayrshire a “World Class Place for People and Nature”.  This is not only in recognition of the place itself but because it is an area which communities and other stakeholders value and more importantly want to care for and enhance. The Biosphere is seen as a catalyst for partnership working, encouraging sustainable development and enhanced stewardship of the natural resources, assets and skills and talents of the area to help address some deep seated social, economic and environmental challenges which the area faces.

The Biosphere imposes no additional laws or regulation. It relies on existing statute, policy, regulatory processes and guidance (operated by Councils; public agencies and government). However the extensive support for seeking Biosphere status has been founded on a commitment by communities, business, other stakeholders to work together in partnership with the public sector agencies and Councils to improve the areas economic and social performance underpinned by a flourishing and enhanced natural environment. Therefore the expectation is that everyone will ‘up their game’ to ensure that there is progress towards the aspiration of the area being a “World Class Place for People and Nature”. This approach is advocated in Scottish Governments planning policy under Para 125 of SPP,

“125.  Scotland’s landscape and natural heritage are internationally renowned and important, underpinning significant industries such as the food, drink and tourism industries, and are a key component of the high environmental quality which makes Scotland an attractive place in which to live, do business and invest. Improving the natural environment and the sustainable use and enjoyment of it is one of the Government’s national outcomes. Planning authorities should therefore support opportunities for enjoyment and understanding of the natural heritage.”

The Biosphere has a large number of International designations – 3 Ramsar Sites; 18 Natura 2000 sites (ie 14 SACs; 4 SPAs); plus a large number of sites which as Annex A or other sites support the Natura 2000 network. There are 91 SSSIs. (see )  The fact that there are designated sites throughout the Biosphere, in all 3 zones, reflects the high quality of the habitat generally. The aspiration of the Biosphere Partnership is that these existing environmental assets are enhanced and built on.

The European Biodiversity Strategy has put a priority on enhancing, strengthening and completing the Natura 2000 network and it is understood that funding will be used to support actions which do this. This is something which the Biosphere partnership have identified as a significant opportunity and which if appropriate projects can be identified should help to deliver environmental and sustainable economic benefits  across a wide range of agendas   –   Biosphere; EU; Natura; SG; Agency; Council and community. A project which it is hoped will be submitted for funding under the EU LIFE+ is currently under development within the Biosphere.

In summary, the Natura 2000 sites together with sites supporting the Natura 2000 network are particularly important and the strong policy backing in the planning frameworks such as the Ayrshire Joint Structure Plan and planning policy guidance is helpful in protecting and enhancing the network.


It is absolutely fundamental for the future of the Biosphere, and the development of ecological networks within it and which underpin the economy, society and culture, that these strategically significant sites and the networks which support them through out the Biosphere – the core, buffer zone and transition area – are protected and enhanced. In this sense Natura 2000 and Biosphere are in my view inextricably linked and mutually beneficial.

This hydrologists’ AndresTorizzo hydrology report  for Vermont is very interesting and it seems to draw a parralel with what is happening here.

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