My constituents in Falkirk East are anxious for the report to be published. The spreading of sewage sludge was raised as a concern with my predecessor, Angus MacDonald, and has now been raised with me. The smell and inconvenience generate multiple complaints, but it is the potential risk to human health that is most concerning. Can the minister confirm whether the Scottish Government has considered the risk to human and animal health of sewage sludge when it is used as a soil conditioner and advise what recent assessment it has made of the viral, heavy metal and bacterial loads in sewage sludge?
I am aware of the concerns of the member’s constituents and of the member. The Government takes matters of human health and environmental policy very seriously. A full review of the legislation and guidance that are relevant to the storage and spreading of sludge was undertaken in 2016, and the more recent piece of work that I referred to, which will be published this month, will help us to carefully consider the situation in 2021.
The spreading of sewage sludge on land is a long-established practice and an effective way of recovering value and avoiding waste. The practice is tightly regulated by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, but issues of odour, which I know the member’s constituents are concerned about, are the responsibility of local authorities. I assure the member that SEPA will never hesitate to take enforcement action against anyone who is not complying with the current regulations for storage and spreading.