‘Serious Money’ Needed From Government To Upgrade Scilly’s Water And Sewers

sewer problem point in hugh st

There are problems with the sewers along Hugh Street

The government will need to come up with “serious money” to upgrade the islands’ water and sewerage infrastructure.

That was the view of Cllr Richard McCarthy at last Tuesday’s General Purposes Meeting, where councillors discussed the implications of the governments’ proposals to bring Scilly into line with mainland water regulations.

Defra launched a three month consultation exercise on Thursday.

Richard said the islands are “potentially going to be in a pretty bad place” if the government introduces the new rules as intended next year and he felt the government was trying to pass responsibility for improving the water system onto the Council and other organisations in Scilly.

Earlier in the meeting, Senior Manager for Infrastructure Craig Dryden said a feasibility study has shown that upgrading the Hugh Town sewers is likely to cost over £5m.

That’s more than the £1m funding provided to the Council by Defra several years ago to solve the problems, but which still hasn’t been spent.

Instead, Craig suggested using that money for smaller projects, like urgent repairs to the Atlantic outfall pipe and the bio-bubble treatment plant in Old Town.

He also wants to install a direct seawater feed for the desalination plant at Deep Point because the boreholes currently being used are contaminated with iron, which is clogging the filters.

But Cllr Gaz O’Neill felt that whatever the authority does to try to meet the more stringent regulations, it won’t be enough.

Gaz said we need to show “we’ve done our best” so we “get less of a slap on the wrist when we’re inevitably found to be non-compliant.”

Craig said it wasn’t just capital that was needed to improve the infrastructure. It’s likely to also cost more to operate the services in the future.

And there could be costs to other organisations, like the Duchy and Tresco, local businesses and also, potentially, residents.

Craig says Defra needs to support some form of analysis to understand the implications of changes they’re proposing.

Last week, Defra said there were “a number of options” they’re considering to pay for the upgrades, including the Council raising funds locally, through central government and European grants or even privatisation of water on the islands.

They said no decision has been made on what proportion of the costs, if any, will be passed onto the bill payer.

But there was some potential good news.

Craig told councillors that his team are looking into the possibility of digging up the pavements to lay the new sewerage pipes, instead of the newly laid roads.

That means these paths could be improved when they’re resurfaced.