SCOTTISH Power have said sorry to the people affected by ash clouds that have hung over West Fife villages for more than two weeks. 

Residents have been advised to avoid inhaling the dust, arising from the Valleyfield ash lagoons that were used by the now closed Longannet Power Station, and the energy firm said they were working to solve the environmental problem.

A Scottish Power spokesperson said: “We are doing everything we can to reduce the dust lifting, which has been the result of the exceptionally dry and windy weather experienced recently.

"We’d like to reassure residents that the dust is not considered to be hazardous.

“We have brought additional equipment into the site including water cannons to help keep the dust levels down and have this week had approval from SEPA to use water directly from the River Forth to support our dust suppression work. 

“We are confident these efforts will significantly reduce the volume of dust that has been lifting from the site and will work tirelessly to prevent this situation occurring again in future.

"We’d like to apologise to local residents for the disruption that has been caused and any inconvenience this has had.” 

NHS Fife Director of Public Health, Dr Margaret Hannah, told the Press: “NHS Fife has been in communication with Fife Council and SEPA who are working with Scottish Power to control the source of this dust and stop the problem.

“However, breathing in dust can be bad for your health especially if you have asthma or other lung disease already.

“For this reason, whilst we do not believe the type of fine ash in West Fife presents a greater health risk than other fine dusts, those in the affected area are best advised to avoid inhaling the dust wherever possible.

“This may involve, for example, shutting windows and doors when it is dusty outside.”

The issue was raised in the Press last week by Fiona Day, of Torryburn, who was concerned about the health impact of the ash and contacted SEPA before Easter.

Both her sons have asthma and one was given strong medication for a chest infection. She said: “To me, it is all too coincidental.”

The lagoons are drying out, causing ash to be carried by the wind. When the power station was operational, the ash was mixed with water, transported and safely deposited in the lagoons.

Dunfermline MSP Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “Although the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) have confirmed that there is no asbestos present in the ash cloud, which was a concern that had been raised by locals, this is a serious issue. 

“There are serious health and environmental implications concerning the ash cloud and I would urge Scottish Power to act swiftly.

The MSP said Scottish Power had “doubled the number of vehicles being used to dampen the ash” to solve the problem. 

But Fiona said: “Unless you’ve seen them, it’s hard to appreciate just how large these lagoons are and, until Monday, they had two bowsers to dampen down the ash. 

“They’ve doubled it to four but they’d need hundreds to make a difference. In relation to the size of the lagoons, the area they’re dampening is like a pinprick.

“SEPA say it’s not hazardous but breathing in that amount of stuff has got to be detrimental to health.”

Her father, Bob Armour, said: “It’s disturbing they’ve allowed such a large area to dry out. I’ve been here 40-odd years and it’s never been as bad as this. 

“The lack of response from both bodies, SEPA and Scottish Water, has been appalling.

"It’s totally out of control. I understand SEPA have had, since November, the plans Scottish Power have put forward for capping, including the depth of material, but nothing’s happened.”