Council officials refuse to reveal location of contaminated sites

Council officials are refusing to reveal the location of a host of sites in the Borders that could be contaminated by toxic waste.

The Southern has been told the locations of possibly contaminated sites are being kept secret - under the Freedom of Information Act.

Last month it was reported that a demolished gasworks in Langholm and three former gasometers close to the town were on a "high-risk" register of 43 sites identified in Dunfries and Galloway.

Dumfries and Galloway Council originally refused to publish the list but later relented under pressure from local MP David Mundell. The Southern Reporter then asked Scottish Borders Council for details of possibly contaminated sites. But two weeks later the Council stated that the list wouldn't be made public - in case it causes confusion.

Some sites have already been tested and safety work carried out - but the lack of an appropriate council inspector is delaying further checks. After the Southern Reporter's initial request for site details was rejected, they filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act. But they were told by the Council's access to information officer, Doreen Broom: "Unfortunately, the council is unable to provide you with this list at this point in time as the sites have not yet been investigated and therefore the information is incomplete."

The council is relying on the exemption under Section 10(4)(d) of the Environmental Information Regulations as the request relates to work which is still in the course of completion, to unfinished documents or to incomplete data. "The council is also of the view that if it released this information in its present form then this would be misleading to members of the public and therefore would not be in the public interest to disclose until the investigations have been completed."

Under the act, the Southern Reporter has asked the Council to review its decision and they must do so within 20 days. If their decision remains the same, an appeal will be lodged with the Scottish Information Commissioner.

Council uses Freedom Act to keep 'contaminated land' sites secret (Southern Reporter, 2 April 2008)