‘Chemical’ stink forces residents indoors

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People living in the Quarry Road area of Oban have complained of a strong ‘creosote’-like smell forcing them to shut windows and doors as outdoor temperatures soar.

Some residents suspect the smell is coming from piles of treated telegraph poles being stored in a yard nearby.

Argyll and Bute Council says it has received complaints and is investigating.

A number of residents who got in touch with The Oban Times said the smell  left them with burning eyes, nose and throat and an irritating cough, as well as headaches when the stink was as its strongest as the recent heatwave peaked.

Posts about it have also appeared online.

One woman, who did not want to be named, said it was not the first time complaints had been made about the odour.

People have also been affected in the Mossfield area and in Glencruitten Road.

‘The  smell comes and goes all year and that’s gone on for quite a few years now, but it has been a lot worse recently, since before lockdown. The council and SEPA (Scottish Environment Protection Agency) know about it. My nose, eyes and the back of my throat feel as though they are burning and I’m coughing. Normally, I don’t have any problems like that as I’m fit and healthy.

‘If the smell is coming from the poles in the yard, they shouldn’t be allowed to pile them up there. It should be away from a residential area,’ she said.

Another woman who lives nearby described it as ‘a headachey smell’, making her and her family wheeze and cough.

‘When it’s very bad like that, everything you eat and drink tastes of it. You go to bed at night  and can smell it in your hair – that’s not right. It’s crazy. The simple solution would be to store these poles somewhere else, away from people’s homes,’ she said.

Oban councillor Roddy McCuish said if people want to contact him, he will look into it.

When The Oban Times contacted John MacNiven of JAM Drilling Ltd, he said about 110 ‘fresh’ poles had recently been delivered to the yard but would be moved soon.

The business is still active during lockdown because it is classed as essential work supporting the telecommunications industry.

The poles, which are treated with a non-creosote substance in Wales and also come from a second supplier elsewhere in Scotland, are only stored at the Quarry Road yard, said Mr MacNiven, who said irritations to nose, throat and eyes can only be caused by touching or ingestion.

Mr MacNiven said: ‘If it is the case that just the smell of it could have that kind of impact on people, we would not be doing it. We are not wanting to cause people any harm or upset. If someone wants to speak to me about it, they can. There’s no hiding anything but I will put a fresh tarpaulin over it to reduce any odour.’

Mr MacNiven said creosote was no longer used to treat poles, but instead a more eco-friendly substance is used.  In the recent hot weather, the quarry site had become a suntrap and that could have something to do with the smell, he added.

A spokesperson for Argyll and Bute Council said: ‘We have received reports about this and are currently investigating it.’