Going the Extra Nautical Mile for an Island Community

09 April 2020

One of our response teams saved a remote island’s water supply after they commandeered a fast boat to carry out a repair to a burst main.

At just ten miles long and two miles wide, Colonsay is one of the smallest of the inhabited Hebridean islands. We provide vital water services to the 135 residents who live there, via Loch an Sgoltaire reservoir and Colonsay Water Treatment Works.

Boat from Oban
Materials for repair
Repair in boggy area
Boat

A Race Against Time

The burst occurred on a four inch water main near to the main village of Scalasaig.

“... there was no way that we were going to let any of the obstacles we faced jeopardise our customers’ supplies.”

Leslie Robinson
Scottish Water operative

The burst occurred on a four inch water main near to the main village of Scalasaig, on Saturday 4 April, resulting in limited storage left in the island’s water tanks and the threat of residents being left without water at a challenging time when they need to stay at home and adhere to hygiene measures.

It became a race against time to get things back to normal.

Acknowledging the complexity of the excavation and the repair work required, Scottish Water operative Leslie Robinson, one of our army of staff working round the clock to maintain normal services to customers across Scotland, quickly enlisted the help from contractors on the mainland. 

With obstacles such as a restricted ferry timetable, choppy seas and challenging land conditions thwarting the emergency work, D&K Lafferty, contractors in Oban arranged access to a rigid inflatable boat, and made the 75 mile round-trip to Colonsay to help maintain supply.

Leslie explained: “It was a tricky job in a very boggy area which required specialised sludge pumps and the extra manpower but there was no way that we were going to let any of the obstacles we faced jeopardise our customers’ supplies. Working the required two metres apart, the excavation and repair took around five hours from start to finish. We also took the opportunity to install a new line valve which will help with leak detection in the future and improve the island’s water efficiency.”

“We find ourselves in very challenging times; times which are made even more difficult when incidents happen in remote areas where there are even less resources to call on. Teamwork and quick decision-making meant we were able to avoid potential disruption for our customers at a time when our services are crucial. That’s the most important thing.”

Ross Barclay, a water operations team manager with Scottish Water, based in Oban, praised the team for going the extra mile. He said: “The ongoing Covid-19 emergency means that we’re now operating in a very different landscape and it’s important that we think on our feet and come up with a work-around for issues we wouldn’t have faced under normal circumstances.

 

“This was a fantastic piece of team work all-round and a great illustration of how we’re working hard during these challenging times to keep our vital services flowing for our customers, while reducing the risk to employees and our customers.”