Strathclyde makes a point with pounds100m waste plan

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STRATHCLYDE, the region expected to be axed in a reorganisation of Scottish local government, yesterday committed itself to a pounds100m sewage reorganisation to meet new EC environmental laws by 1998, writes James Cusick.

By opting for land-based disposal of sewage sludge instead of incineration, the region will have pleased environmental pressure groups worried about the effects of incinerating waste material. However the timing of the announcement - just months before the Scottish Office's expected decisions on the future of local government and water and sewerage management - will be seen as a political gesture aimed at highlighting the economies of scale that will be lost when Strathclyde is split up.

The EC's Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive means that dumping of sewage sludge at sea will have to end by 1998. At present Strathclyde disposes of 1.8 million tonnes a year of sludge into the Arran Trench in the Firth of Clyde.

Research concluded that incineration would be three times the price of land-based disposal and had potential environmental side-effects. Under the proposals, upgrading treatment plants that serve the region's 2.35 million people would see the organic sludge being recycled into agriculture, forestry and land reclamation.

Professor Tom Anderson, the director of Strathclyde Sewage, said that the strategy 'was considered the best for the environment and utilised a valuable resource instead of dealing with sludge as a waste material for disposal'.

Although it is unlikely that the Strathclyde plan will ever be adopted, its publication will be further ammunition for those opposed to privatisation of Scotland's water and sewerage systems. The Scottish Office is examining recommendations from a multitude of organisations into how the reorganisation of the services should be carried out. Most are said to favour water remaining in public ownership.