ENVIRONMENTAL watchdog SEPA has launched an investigation after claims Galashiels’ landfill site is making locals ill.

Residents at nearby Coopersknowe Crescent say dust from the plant is causing many of them to develop lung problems.

Concerns have also been raised about general waste blowing around the site.

John Birnie, 71, contacted the Scottish Environment Protection Agency after he and his wife were diagnosed with lung conditions.

He told us: “There has been bad organisation in the running of the landfill site for many years.

“We’ve lived here for 10 years now and we have started to see people falling ill, because of that maladministration.

“My wife Gail now has chronic lung disease. 

“She had open heart surgery 10 years ago, so she went through all the tests with the hospital and had no problems at the time. 

“Now she is on an antibiotic, which she will have to take for the rest of her life.

“We believe this is because the landfill site is being run poorly. There are also other people on our estate who have lung problems.

“You can often see dust blowing from the site, because the rubbish has just been piled up and uncapped.

“I also recently went to the doctors for a check up as I have had operations in the past. They told me your heart is fine, but you have spores on your lungs. I put this down to dust flying off the aggregate plant.

“The site is run by the taxpayer, so we are paying them to get sick.”

Mr Birnie, along with other residents of the estate, have been avid campaigners against the creation a waste transfer station. But the £4.8 million project was given the green light by councillors back in November.

Local farmer Tom Douglas, who was also part of the campaign, added: “Residents don’t mind having a recycling facility. But if it is not managed properly it can cause great distress to farmers. If rubbish is blowing around and a sheep, for example, takes in a polythene bag... it could be fatal.”

SEPA were due to visit the site yesterday (Tuesday) to carry out an inspection, as we were going to press.

A spokesperson said: “Every day, SEPA works to protect and improve Scotland’s environment.

“SEPA officers have been contacted by a local resident close to Easter Langlee landfill regarding allegations of dust and waste escaping from the site.

"Officers are due to meet the complainant to discuss their concerns and will seek to substantiate any potential pollution to local watercourses or the surrounding environment and respond accordingly.”

Scottish Borders Council added: "Any individuals who have health concerns should contact their GP.

"The landfill site is operated under licence with SEPA and is maintained to their satisfaction and is subject to regular unannounced inspections.

"Measures are taken to minimise dust emissions from the site, including the use of water bowsers. Dust surveys have also been carried out in the locality.

"By their nature, landfill operations are exposed to all weathers, including wind, which results in some litter being blown around the site. The image (pictured above) appears to be taken from within the landfill site, and various measures are in place to avoid its spread any further, including regular litter picking, fixed and moveable litter fences and ditch capture areas, as seen in the image.

"Staff have carried a walk round of the site perimeter and there is no evidence of any litter from the site outwith the site boundary."