from Sunday Herald, 16 November 2014
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) has come under fire for keeping the locations of 87 polluters secret, enabling mistakes to be covered up.
In its latest assessment of environmental performances for 2013, it has refused to identify 1,187 water suppliers and 287 sites handling radioactive materials "for reasons of national security". But it has rated 83 of the water suppliers and four of the radioactive sites as “poor” or “very poor”.
Scottish Water said that it runs 224 of the water sites, 41 of which had been assessed as poor, but the locations are unknown. Others will include farmers, fish farmers, golf courses and companies that need to extract water for their businesses.
The sites handling radioactive substances will include hospitals, factories and industries using radiation sources for treatment and measurements. It is not clear whether nuclear power plants, and naval bases at Faslane and Rosyth, are included.
Friends of the Earth Scotland urged Sepa to treat requests for secrecy “with the utmost scepticism”, pointing out that the Ministry of Defence recently took nine months to confess to radioactive leaks within a military reactor near Dounreay in Caithness.
“The cloak of national security can be a real reason to keep information secret, but it is much more often misused to cover up poor performance,” said the group’s pollution campaigner, Emilia Hanna.
“If paranoia about terrorism means we cannot even know whether a given hospital is looking after a medical radioactive source properly, you have to wonder where this will end. Will we take railway stations off the maps and take down the road signs next?”
The Green MSP Alison Johnstone argued that Sepa’s assessments of potential pollution were clearly of public interest. “I can understand them not wanting to broadcast this information but this must be balanced with our right to know what’s going on in our environment,” she said.
Sepa declined to name the sites involved with water resources or radioactive substances. “Sites have security appropriate to the radiation source, but for obvious reasons it would be reckless to draw attention to where these sites are,” said a Sepa spokesman.
“A large number of water resource sites are not available due to the fact that these sites are considered part of Scotland’s water supply network, which again it would be reckless to advertise.”