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20 February 2009

Questions asked after sewage release
“Minor” discharge a mistake – Scottish Water
LAST week’s sewage discharge at Innellan was a “minor incident,” say Scottish Water and SEPA - but local residents and politicians are adamant that problems at the treatment site must be resolved once and for all.
Operatives who were carrying out a cleaning operation at the Innellan/Toward waste network site on Tuesday February 10 had allowed untreated waste to discharge into the Clyde.
Concerned local resident Jim Duncan had challenged the workers on site and eventually contacted SEPA and Argyll and Bute Council’s environmental health team.
A Scottish Water spokesman told the Standard earlier this week: “I can confirm that what happened was down to pure human error and we apologise for any concern caused.
“The waste water was dispersed in the firth by mistake, and we have put in place a number of measures to prevent it happening again.”
He also stated that both SEPA and the environmental health department were happy with the utility’s response to the “dispersal.”
SEPA, meanwhile, confirmed that it was satisfied that the discharge would not cause a significant impact to the water environment.
Stating that it would not be taking any further action, a spokeswoman said: “The incident has been logged and recorded as a minor event. The discharge had already been screened and therefore did not contain any solids.
“We will liaise further with Scottish Water to ensure that appropriate steps are taken to make sure this sort of incident is avoided in the future.”
However, in contrast to Scottish Water and SEPA’s response, Argyll and Bute Council’s environmental health department said: “Having visited the site, we viewed it as an emergency situation.
“Discussions about the incident are ongoing with Scottish Water and we are looking at how similar incidents can be avoided in the future.”
Local residents remain extremely unhappy about the situation, and have contacted council leader Dick Walsh and Argyll and Bute MSP Jim Mather to ask for assistance.
Cllr Walsh has had considerable involvement with the issue and had the opportunity to discuss the situation further with concerned locals at his regular surgery earlier this week.
He told the Standard: “The history here is that despite the representations and concerns of local residents, and the refusal to grant planning consent by the area committee some time ago, mainly because of the proximity to the adjacent houses, planning consent was given following an appeal to the Scottish Executive at that time.
“The area committee refused the application then on the grounds of a bad neighbour development.”
He continued: “Since then however, and following the concerns about the design of the facility and quality of the works, many meetings have taken place with Scottish Water in attempts to rectify the experienced problems and allay local fears.
“There have been long delays in supplying requested information as well as the agreed works. As a council, we have been requesting meetings with Scottish Water to discuss all of this.
“The recent incident is, regrettably, not the first. There have been problems with this facility from day one.
“I have a considerable sympathy with the local residents here and what they are being expected to put up with, and suffice to say the lack of action and attempts to resolve the problems are far from acceptable.”
He concluded: “I am currently in the process of arranging a meeting with Scottish Water, SEPA, public protection and planning officers, together with my councillor colleagues Alister MacAlister and James McQueen, and local residents.
“We want to thrash out this whole issue and secure a resolution. We also want to return to the issue of the suitability of the design, the type of treatment proposed for this area given the also recently expressed concerns from Toward residents of being excluded from a future sewerage treatment system. This may involve other and wider areas.
“We will do whatever we can to assist here.”
MSP Jim Mather has also expressed his concerns at the situation, saying: “I am appalled that this could have happened. However, it took place at a site where local people, like Mr Duncan, have a track record for vigilance and we owe him a debt of gratitude for broadcasting such bad practice.
“I now hope that this incident will help make others vigilant and hopefully persuade Scottish Water to ensure that all such work in the future is carried out to the highest standards.”
He stated that he would be writing to the water company seeking an explanation as to why such a means of clearing the tank was used and asking for assurances that workers will be informed of the appropriate procedures.
Mr Mather added: “I am glad that this issue has been given such prominence and believe that Scottish Water now has to perpetually do everything in its power to ensure that there are absolutely no recurrences.”
More work?
Mr Duncan told the Standard that he had met with Scottish Water representatives earlier this week to discuss the situation.
He said: “It is totally unacceptable that this happens when we have tried to highlight the problems to Scottish Water.
“It’s all very well that they have admitted this mistake, but how do we know it hasn’t happened before, because no one saw it?
“Scottish Water should not get off with just a reprimand here.”
Another man who contacted the Standard commented: “If this was a private individual or a company discharging waste, the authorities would come down on them like a ton of bricks. People have appeared in court and had hefty fines for similar things. Why don’t the same rules apply here?”
Mr Duncan added: “They have now said that the Innellan site may need to have macerators fitted. This will presumably be expensive and require yet more work to be carried out.”
When asked about why macerators (which chop up bulky waste) were needed at the relatively new site, a Scottish Water spokesman said: “It might be an option we would look at if the pumps at Innellan repeatedly clog up.
“Our investigations suggest that the problem could be due to inappropriate items such as nappies, wipes and other sanitary items flushed down toilets in the area. The other day one of our operators removed a towel from the system!
“We would urge people to consider carefully what they flush. Any help they can give would be greatly appreciated as it will help protect their local environment.”
He concluded: “We will continue to monitor the Innellan system to make sure we are happy it is functioning well.”

Wind energy boost
– but can grid cope?
With news this week that the Crown Estate is to award nine ‘exclusivity agreements’ to investigate the potential for offshore windfarms at ten sites in Scottish waters - including three sites off Argyll - the local authority has voiced concerns that the Argyll electricity grid will not be able to cope.
Of the sites in question, the largest is the 1.5GW ‘Argyll Array’, proposed for west coast of Tiree.
Other smaller schemes are planned to the west of Kintrye (378MW) and Islay (680MW).
Following the award of exclusivity rights on the Argyll Array to Scottish Power Renewables (SPR), Keith Anderson, director of the company, said: “Scotland has the best onshore wind resources in Europe, and now it is taking its first steps towards harnessing its offshore potential, which will play a major role in helping to achieve renewable energy targets.”
He added: “This announcement is the first step on a long but important journey, and over the next 12 months we will carry out detailed studies of the site and will consult widely with stakeholders to help shape any future scheme.”
Argyll and Bute MSP Jim Mather welcomed the announcement, saying: “This is a hugely significant announcement and underscores the potential that the Scottish Government has identified for offshore wind as part of the development of renewables for Scotland. Out of ten sites identified by the Crown Estates three are located off the coast of Argyll and Bute and that must encourage hopes of long term economic benefit.”
Alan Reid MP said that the proposed new windfarm sites could help to safeguard jobs at the Vestas wind turbine factory near Campbeltown. He commented: “There are currently 90 jobs, but I imagine this number could increase to 200 or 300.”
This is, of course, dependent on a buyer being found for the factory. South Kintyre councillor Rory Colville has concerns for the future of the area should the plant close. “I would welcome any developments in offshore windfarms because that would see a return of confidence”, he said.
All this extra energy needs a means of being transferred to the mainland marketplace if it is to be of any use, and this point was made earlier this week by Argyll and Bute Council.
Dick Walsh, leader of the council, has written to the First Minister expressing concern over the omission of Argyll and Bute in the planned upgrade of the National Grid.
The National Planning Framework for Scotland (NPF2), which is currently before the Scottish Parliament, sets out future plans for electricity grid reinforcements, including sub-sea cables.
A council statement read: “In spite of previous representations from Argyll and Bute Council, the much needed Hunterston to Carradale cable has not been included, whilst those for Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles have.”
Councillor Walsh said, “The inclusion of this sub-sea cable in the National Planning Framework is critical to Argyll and Bute’s future as a centre for renewable energy production. The electricity grid within Argyll and Bute is currently “saturated” with the result that any new energy projects, even very small ones, are being refused connections any earlier than 2018. We need to increase capacity so that we can play to our strengths and introduce new wind, marine and tidal developments.”
He continued, “ I cannot overemphasise the importance of the Hunterston to Carradale sub-sea cable if we are to ensure that our extensive renewable resources can be harnessed for the long term benefit of our economy, our communities and our businesses.”

‘Johnny Dewars’ remembered
When Dewar’s Boot Store and the associated fish shop in Inveraray’s Main Street were sold in October last year, it brought to an end a family tradition dating back more than 200 years.
One of the longest-established businesses in Argyll, the Dewar family is thought to have been producing footwear in Inveraray since 1791.
For generations of people in Argyll and further afield, ‘Johnny Dewars’ was a household name, an institution. The family provided the kind of friendly, genuine service which is often sadly lacking in modern retail, and in return for this level of service, customers rewarded the family with loyalty and friendship.
Although the family is known to have been in business in the early years of the nineteenth century, it wasn’t until the later part of the century that two Dewar brothers, Neil (born 1866) and John (born 1875) really began to get things moving. Neil was mainly involved with making, repairing and selling footwear, while John had a fish shop and salmon fishing rights in upper Loch Fyne.
John took on – while very young - the tenancies for the workshops and fish store on Main Street in 1889, while also hiring rowing boats on Loch Fyne. He was the ferryman for Inveraray Town Council between 1893 and 1907, operating the paddle steamer ‘Fairy’ - reputed to be the smallest paddle steamer in the world - between Inveraray and St Catherines.
In 1914, John Dewar acquired the tenancy for the present shop from the local Co-operative Society.
John had three daughters and a son; Chrissie, who tragically died aged just 16, Frena, Annie and John (Jnr). One Inveraray resident remembers the family well. “I lived opposite the shop on the other side of the street, and as a child we used to play games in the road with the Dewar children,” said Mrs Jean McKay (nee Farquharson), now aged 96. “Frena was a great pal, and I remember going round to their house and having marvellous sing-songs, with Mrs Dewar (whom she remembers as being a MacCallum from Tighnabruaich) playing the piano.” John Dewar himself was known to be a skilled poet, and took to writing hymns later in life.
Neil Dewar died in 1935, and his brother John followed in 1939. This was far from the end of the story, however, as John (Jnr), known as ‘Johnny,’ took the business on after his father’s death.
Throughout the years of the Second World War, Johnny Dewar worked for up to 20 hours per day in the cobblers workshop at the rear of the main shop repairing boots for the thousands of troops who trained around the town. Despite the gruelling nature of the work, it was far from all work and no play. The workshop became a popular meeting place for the ‘local worthies’ to meet, put the world to rights and have a wee dram. Many an impromptu ceilidh was the result.
Johnny purchased the shop from the owners, Argyll Estates, while also carrying on the family fishing rights granted by the estate. He was to continue exercising his salmon fishing rights up to the mid 1970s.
During his time in the shop, Johnny Dewar took his wares to the regular livestock sales at Dalmally, selling his famous ‘tackety boots’. These sales were great social occasions, and many lifelong friendships were made among the farming folks of Argyll.
Johnny married Kathleen MacDonald from Berneray in the 1960s, and Kathleen worked in the fish shop beside the boot store until her death in 1996. Sisters Frena and Annie worked beside their brother in the boot store until they were well past retirement age.
Frena’s son, John Vallis, being the only boy in the family, was meanwhile being ‘groomed’ to take over from his uncle. In 1964, young John began a long apprenticeship with his uncle, learning all about the footwear trade. Like his uncle, he had a liking for the fishing, though preferring the peace and solitude of hill loch and brown trout to the ‘king of fish’ in Loch Fyne.
John Vallis was joined by wife Maureen in the shop, and they have worked together for the last 18 years.
Johnny Dewar died in 1988, at the age of 79, leaving the business to his nephew.
Nephew John speaks fondly of his uncle, saying: “He was a great gentleman, loved by all ages. He shod generations of families, and the eyes of children would light up when he produced a sweetie or a penny from his pocket. Even the dogs would get a peppermint.”
John recalls an unorthodox use which children found for footstools in the shop. “They were more often used as slides rather than for their intended purpose,” he says, giving another clue to the gentle nature which attracted many long friendships to the Dewar family.
Rae MacGregor, another local lady who has fond recollections of ‘Johnny Dewars,’ said simply: “Johnny Dewar was an awful nice man – a true gentleman.”
After many years of operating the family business in Inveraray and continuing the tradition of service for which the shop was famous, John and Maureen Vallis made the difficult decision to retire and sell Dewar’s Boot Store.
The name lives on, however. New owner Scott Sweeney continues to trade under the long-respected name of Dewar’s Boot Stores, while the fish shop was sold to local man Ruaridh MacKay and has been transformed into the ‘Eden Deli.’
As the Dewar’s business marches, well-shod, into the 21st century, Scott Sweeney has every intention of retaining the levels of service with which the shop has been synonymous. He said: “I spend a lot of time outdoors as a deer stalker, so I know what works and what doesn’t for outdoor clothing. I hope to put this to good use in the advice we offer and in the product range in the shop. I also want to develop the range of products to include things like fishing tackle as time goes on.”
The shop will be looked after by Scott’s girlfriend Lucy Marquis, who will act as manageress. Scott added: “I want to thank John and Maureen for their help in getting Lucy and I set up in the business, and we wish them all the best for a happy retirement.”
On Friday February 6, four members of Dunoon’s Satori Karate left for the Irish Open in Belfast.
Competitors from Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland and the Republic of Ireland were present.
After flight delays we eventually arrived at 11pm.
We had an early start on Saturday morning and, after a very hard day, the club left with four bronze medals.
Results: David Campbell, 3rd Senior open retired with foot damage; Cameron MacAlister, 3rd Kata 16 to 18, 3rd Kumite open up to 16, disqualified semi-final; Conner Honeyball, 3rd Kumite under 14 years, fought well; Chloe Honeyball, last eight Kumite under ten years old - great first outing for the association.
Coming home was even harder as our flight did not arrive in Glasgow till 1.30am. We all got home to Dunoon on Monday, after a very hard weekend which reminded the coach of the good old days.
For more information on the club see