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Sludge review final recommendations

Published: 5 Feb 2016 10:40

Environment Secretary publishes recommendations from sludge review

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment Richard Lochhead has published recommendations designed to improve guidance, practice and regulations relating to the spreading of sewage sludge on land in Scotland, following the conclusion of a review into the issue – which include implementing some requirements into Scottish law.

Among the recommendations to come out of the review of the storage and spreading of sewage sludge on land are:

  • The requirements of the Safe Sludge Matrix should be incorporated into law in Scotland
  • There should be an operator's licence including a 'fit and proper person' test for all operators who are involved in the handling, storage, transportation and spreading of material on agricultural land
  • SEPA should be the lead agency for incidents and complaints relating specifically to sewage sludge, with a single point of contact
  • SEPA should have the power to have an 'exempt' activity, such as storage of sewage sludge, stopped immediately and the sludge removed
  • Tighter monitoring of operator practice by SEPA

Mr Lochhead said:

"Following the recent conclusion of the review, I have approved a wide range of recommendations. Some of the recommendations will require changes to legislation, and we will of course undertake a public consultation on any draft legislative proposals.

"The use of sewage sludge – when well managed – allows us to recycle valuable materials in a way that is safe and environmentally beneficial. I am confident that these actions will address the issues raised by communities and MSPs in relation to the spreading of sewage sludge, notably offensive odours."

Calum MacDonald, Executive Director at SEPA said:

"I am pleased to see the publication of these recommendations by the Cabinet Secretary. SEPA wholeheartedly supported this review of legislation and practice. SEPA has been a key participant in the process to date and we'll continue to support Scottish Government in delivering these recommendations."

The review was commissioned by the Cabinet Secretary in response to a number of public complaints relating to odour, and focused on issues such as public nuisance, regulations and guidance, regulatory roles, and the treatment and testing of sludge.

A review group made up of Scottish Government, SEPA and Scottish Water officials held discussions over recent months with communities, the sewage sludge industry, local authorities, and other stakeholders.

Notes to editors

Sewage sludge is produced by Scottish Water (20 per cent) and Public Finance Initiative (PFI) contractors (80 per cent) on a daily basis from sewage treatment works throughout Scotland. One of the long-established routes for sewage sludge is for it to be spread on land due to the potential to improve soil quality and provide nutrients for crops. By following guidance and ensuring suitable precautions are taken over the type of sewage sludge used, significant benefits can be derived whilst soil quality and the wider environment are minimised.

The 'Review of the Storage and Spreading of Sewage Sludge on Land in Scotland (The Sludge Review): Final Recommendations' report is available on the Scottish Government website: