Location, location, location

Despite the need to improve the quality of Glasgow's water supply, getting approval for a new WTW has not been easy. Norrie Hunter reports on the Loch Katrine Project's progress

In its quest to remove the threat of Cryptosporidium from Glasgow's water supply and improve overall quality, Scottish Water (SW) has embarked on an ambitious and controversial scheme - the Katrine Water Project, a new £100M WTW in a scenic area within the existing Mugdock Reservoir complex to the north west of the city. However, has Scotland's water authority won the hearts and minds of its customers in its choice of location for this most important and long-awaited development? It has been a long, often bitter, yet determined campaign, that has seen SW overcome intense opposition from pressure groups, environmentalists and local homeowners, to begin construction of what will be the largest single new-build project of its kind in Scotland.

Legislation requires SW to improve water quality to greater Glasgow to meet EU guidelines by December 2005. Despite its good intentions, however, the organisation has met opposition to its plans to ensure compliance.

In fact it was a case of second time around for SW which failed last year to convince East Dunbartonshire Council, the local authority with jurisdiction over the site of the proposed WTW, that the location and plans for the new plant were sound and acceptable to the populous. SW even objected directly to the Scottish Executive over the council's refusal to grant planning permission. However, before ministers could debate the issue a new application was submitted which, while not changing the location of the project, did make some concessions on environmental issues.

The importance of the new water treatment facility for Scotland's largest city cannot be underestimated. Health experts have predicted that, unless a new treatment plant is built, there will be an ongoing threat to health and the chance of another major Crypto. outbreak - possibly within the next two-three years. Luckily, there were no fatalities or serious illness in Glasgow last year when traces of the parasite were found in supplies to the city. The outbreak caused major disruption and for a week more than 160,000 homes had to boil their water. Due to the planning-related delays, the project has suffered and, considering the three-year construction period, it is likely the 2005 completion date will not be met. Further delays are possible if the Scottish Executive agrees to a public enquiry over a protest concerning a 'loss of amenity'.

In addition to the new facility, SW has embarked on a scheme which will link the waters from Loch Lomond and Loch Katrine, the latter is Glasgow's principal source, to create a dual fresh water supply. Major arterial pipes have been routed into a massive mains connector (see p22). Improvements to the quality of drinking water in Scotland are essential, with the Katrine Water Project acting very much as a flagship. SW's manager for the project, Gus Watt talked to WWT about the scheme.

WWT: Why does Scottish Water need to improve the water supply?

GW: Loch Katrine, which feeds the two Milngavie Reservoirs, has efficiently supplied customers in Glasgow and neighbouring areas with drinking water for more than 140 years. Currently 700,000 customers rely on drinking water from the loch. However, there is now a need to upgrade the treatment of water to meet UK and European quality standards, in particular for micro-organisms and disinfectant by-products.

WWT: What is Scottish Water's strategy?

GW: We have given an undertaking to the Scottish Executive to meet the required standards. Early in 2000, a team of engineering and environmental experts, led by Scottish Water, started working on a project to develop a water treatment solution for the customers supplied from Loch Katrine.

WWT: How did you arrive at the chosen site?

GW: From the outset Scottish Water appreciated that developing the new works within this highly sensitive area would require very careful consideration. We set in motion the largest research and development project ever undertaken in the Scottish water industry. The process involved more than 100 experts from 25 different disciplines. More than 100,000 hours were spent examining the engineering, environmental and financial issues - 17 potential development areas were included. Since the middle of 2000, Scottish Water and our consultants actively sought the views of statutory and non-statutory consultees and the community at large. A wide range of issues were considered when making the final selection, including impact on people, impact on heritage and amenity, energy consumption, connection to the existing water supply infrastructure and access roads. The option we chose at Milngavie was the one that provided the best balance of all the issues considered.

WWT: How was the right water treatment process chosen?

GW: The selection of the most suitable water treatment system involved a detailed appraisal of options, taking into account the required water treatment parameters, the volume of water required to supply greater Glasgow every day and the results of the year-long pilot plant trials carried out at Milngavie. The pilot plant trialed three distinct processes: dissolved air floatation, membranes and direct filtration. Coagulation and filtration, commonly known as direct filtration, was selected as the most suitable process. Independent research organisation WRc carried out an assessment of the suitability of this process and concluded that it was the most appropriate for the Katrine Water Project.

WWT: The planning process seems to have been a nightmare, explain the problems.

GW: In November 2001 a planning application was submitted to East Dunbartonshire Council for the construction of a treatment facility at Barrachan on a site which already included Milngavie Reservoirs and an associated service reservoir at Bankell Farm, east of the A81 Strathblane Road. Due to concerns that the scale of the development would reduce the amenity at the reservoirs, the application was refused in August 2002. The refusal, by nine votes to seven with a further eight councillors not in attendance, was contrary to council officers' recommendations. There were no objections from statutory consultees and the application was supported by Milngavie Community Council, Baldernock Community Council and Milngavie Civic Trust amongst others.

Then in early October 2002, Scottish Water appealed to the Scottish Executive against the decision by East Dunbartonshire Council. At the same time Scottish Water began to prepare a new planning application for the same site based on a revised design, which took the opportunity to address concerns raised during the planning process. The changes could not be incorporated while the planners were still considering the initial application. These improvements included a 30% reduction of the size of the treatment works building, a lowering of the roof and the introduction of an alternative water disinfection process which removes the need for chlorine gas storage. Waste products will be disposed to sewer rather than landfill, which removed the need for on-site sludge treatment facilities and will mean a reduction in long-term traffic numbers. Further analysis of the water treatment process meant the size of the service reservoir could be reduced by 40%. The reduced scale of the plant will allow additional landscaping to further blend the works with the existing sites.

In order to maintain the amenity of the existing reservoirs, a great deal of effort has been put into reducing the long-term impacts of our proposals. For example large parts of the buildings and structures will be buried or partially buried to minimise noise and visual impacts. The selected site provides a high degree of existing visual screening by both trees and embankments. The works will not be visible from any of the walks around Mugdock Reservoir and will only be partially visible, through a screen of trees, from short lengths of the Craigmaddie Reservoir footpaths. The proposed landscaping will be in-keeping with the existing setting and natural stone will be utilised for the majority of the treatment works buildings. Planning permission was granted by East Dunbartonshire Council Planning Board, following a five-hour long public hearing on February 25. The vote was 20-2. However, because this application is a departure from the Council's Local Plan, it has been referred to Scottish Ministers for approval. We are awaiting the decision.

WWT: What effect will the proposals have on access to the reservoirs?

GW: The important heritage and amenity value of the Milngavie Reservoirs is recognised by Scottish Water and from the outset protection of this has been a core principle for the project team. The circular walks around the reservoirs will be unaffected, except for temporary closure of short stretches during the construction of pipelines, and the amenity value of this area will continue to be enjoyed by visitors.

WWT: What about the future of this important site?

GW: Scottish Water is committed to enhancing the amenity of the Milngavie Reservoirs for future generations. Plans are in place to consult with local and national interest groups to ascertain the most appropriate future use of the existing amenities once the new works



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