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Sunday, 24 March, 2002, 15:42 GMT
Scotland tops water pollution table
Water tap
Scientists monitored domestic water supplies
Scotland has the dirtiest tap water in western Europe, a study of domestic supplies has suggested.

The European Commission findings, which were reported in the Sunday Mail newspaper, found that water samples in Glasgow and Aberdeen were the dirtiest in Europe, ahead of cities including Naples and Marseilles.

The newspaper said scientists monitored water samples for elements including traces of animal waste, colour, acidity, heavy metals and disinfectant bi-products.

Ross Finnie
Ross Finnie: "Very disappointed"
Scotland's Environment Minister, Ross Finnie, expressed disappointment at the figures but said safety standards were being properly implemented.

The newspaper said the statistics were published in an urban audit by the European Commission's regional policy unit and came to light ahead of the merger of Scotland's three water authorities into one nationwide body on 28 March.

They showed that 1.55% of samples in the north of Scotland, including Aberdeen, failed the European water quality standard in the year 2000.

This put Aberdeen at the top of the league and Glasgow, where 1.22% of samples failed, was in second place.

Edinburgh was placed eighth after the study revealed that 0.32% of samples were below the standard.

Mr Finnie said: "I'm obviously very disappointed to see these figures.

Experienced staff

"I have to put this in context. I think we've known for some time that there's an enormous job to be done in terms of upgrading our water supply, which is why we've spent some 1.5bn over the last three years and we'll spend 1.8bn over the next four years to get that water quality up to the best possible standard."

Mr Finnie said he did not agree with claims that standards may have suffered because many experienced staff left following a shake-up of water services six years ago.

Dave Watson, Scottish organiser of the union Unison, told the Sunday Mail that fewer staff meant workers were having to work with sewage and clean water.

Dripping tap
Other European cities had better results
He said: "As the number of workers gets smaller, there is an increasing pressure for them to work with both sewage and clean water.

"In England, there has been a rapid increase in stomach complaints and the suspicion is it may be down to cross-contamination between people working with both."

However, Mr Finnie said: "I would have to talk to management about that but I would be absolutely astonished to discover that the appropriate filtering and testing procedures are not still in place.

Defended standards

"We have now a water quality regulator and they are statutorily responsible for ensuring the appropriate and correct testing is in place."

North of Scotland Water Authority (NoSWA) defended standards in the north and west of the country.

It said: "Tap water has to meet 57 water quality tests and tap water quality in both the Aberdeen and Glasgow areas consistently scores very highly against these tests.

"Water quality in the North and West of Scotland Water has improved every year since the authorities were set up."

NoSWA said water quality figures last year were the highest on record.

Environment Minister Ross Finnie
"There's an enormous job to be done in terms of upgrading our supply"
Laura Maxwell reports
"The Scottish Executive says tests are constantly carried out"
See also:

18 Mar 02 | Scotland
Water bug outbreak grows
08 Feb 02 | Scotland
Water charges outlined
06 Dec 01 | Scotland
Water merger wins MSPs' backing
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