Viking Energy has been accused of making “hollow” promises about protecting the environment after trace metals from its construction site were found in a nearby burn.
SSE admitted to The Shetland Times there bad been an “increase in certain metals/minerals detected in water sample points” in the Burn of Lunklet, near Aith and East Burrafirth within the last six weeks.
The energy giant has been fo~ to inform the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) and the planning official monitoring the project about its discovery.
It said “immediate mitigation was introduced” to rectify the situation.
But that has come too late for Shetland Central councillor Moraig Lyall and anti–Viking windfarm campaigner Frank Hay, who both reacted angrily to the news this week.
“As with so much surrounding this project, what is done cannot be undone. and patching up a bad situation is the only option available when situations like this arise,” Mrs Lyall said.
“It’s very disappointing that the companies involved allowed this to occur. necessitating remedial action.”
SSE insisted that the spikes in trace metals at the Burn ofL1mklet were “moderate”, and bad been dealt with quickly.
However. Sustainable Shetland campaigner Mr Hay said it was “very disappointing that the waters of such an unspoilt area” were being affected by the Viking construction.
“Sadly, it is by no means surprising, given the extent o fthe construction site,” he said.
“Glib assurances that all will be weil sound fairly hollow: if their environmental protection plans bad been adequate this should not have happened in the first place.
“However, it is perhaps surprising that this is the only area where problems have been noted.
“More issues may well come to light in the future.”
Mr Hay also said he believed Sepa had been weak in ensuring the protection of the environment, and bad been “relying too much” on Viking to monitor its own work.
In a brief statement, Sepa said it bad been made aware of the trace metals and that Viking had rectified the mistake.
Mrs Lyall said ongoing monitoring of the sites would highlight any long-term impacts, but added: “That still doesn’t address why an area that is much enjoyed as a beauty spot by our community was placed in the position of being vulnerable to such impacts in the first place.”
The revelation comes following other recent high-profile incidents which have become a public relations nightmare for Viking and SSE.
A fast-moving peat slip at the Mid Kames in July sparked concerns for people living beneath Viking construction sites, with Viking chief Aaron Priest later admitting the incident was avoidable.
He said the incident “should have been reported more quickly”.
It then emerged last month that some of SSE’s 800km network of underground cables may need to be replaced or repaired after “visual anomalies” were reported.
Both SSE and Viking bas refused to answer questions about how much of the cable needs to be replaced or repaired, and what the timescale for checking the cables will be.
SSE has insisted the windfarm will still be delivered on time, in 2024.
Responding to questions about the Burn of Lunklet this week, SSE said its windfarm was being constructed to the highest environmental standards”.
“During ongoing water quality monitoring, which is conducted right across the Viking Energy windfarm site, there have been two moderate spikes observed in the presence of certain minerals/metals in the Red Burn which then forms part of the catchment for the Burn of Lunklet.
“Exposure of a seam of rock and a fissure containing water has led to hydrochemical oxidation resulting in a slight drop in pH and an increase in certain metals/minerals detected in water sample points in the Burn of Lunklet.
“Immediate mitigation was introduced to rectify this, by redirecting water exiting the borrow pit and filtering it through beds of crushed limestone to raise its pH.
“Final rock processing scheduled for the borrow pit will also be aimed at permanently capping off any direct water flows into the Red Burn’s catchment system.
“The borrow pit is due for final reinstatement early in 2023. (the first of five to be comprehensively reinstated) and this will permanently seal the rock faces, preventing any further oxidisation and, consequently, permanently bring the measured pH of the water back to established baseline levels.”
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