NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Gartly primary school closed for several months after oil leak

Gartly School Image copyright Michael Traill
Image caption Gartly School has been closed for several months

A primary school has been closed since December amid extensive work to counteract an oil leak.

Pupils from Gartly School, near Huntly, are instead having to be taught at Kennethmont School, about three miles away.

Some children were said to have been left feeling ill after the leak and resulting strong smell last year.

Aberdeenshire Council said the demolition of outbuildings and replacement of soil was needed.

The local authority said efforts were continuing to re-open as soon as possible, but that safety was the priority.

Calling for answers

The nursery has been relocated to Rhynie School.

Parents have been calling for answers from the council.

Angela Lumsden, 32, takes her daughters, Hannah, nine, Lucy, seven, and four-year-old Beth to and from school and nursery.

Image copyright Michael Traill
Image caption Angela Lumsden is among parents calling for answers

She said: "It's ridiculous. The oil leak started about the mid to the end of November and the smell was so strong you would come in the main entrance and it would hit the back of your throat.

"I had to keep one of my girls off for two days because she came home from school with a sore head and sore throat and I know of other children who were feeling sick and dizzy.

"They were coming home from school and their hair and clothes were stinking of kerosene. I'd have to wash their clothes every day because of the smell."

'Safety is paramount'

The school closed on 17 December due to what was described as a "heating problem".

Mrs Lumsden said parents had been told different potential reopening dates.

She added: "I totally understand that safety is paramount and we're not wanting to rush our children back into a school if it's not safe. We just want to know what's going on."

'Very unsettling'

Fellow parent Andrew Kings, 59, whose children Kaitlyn, 11, Harris, 10 and Kyla, eight, attend the school, said: "How long does the council feel this situation is acceptable?

"It's been very unsettling and the momentum has been lost."

In a letter from the council, parents were told soil contamination was detected north and west of the existing fuel tank, and in the soil beneath the games hall.

'More extensive'

Aberdeenshire Council said in a statement: "We are continuing to do everything in our power to re-open Gartly School as soon as possible.

"The area the oil has affected and the associated remedial works required are more extensive than originally thought, now involving the demolition of outbuildings and replacement of soil underneath.

"Ultimately, colleagues in public health will decide when it is safe for pupils and staff to return to the building and samples to date have not enabled us to progress as we may have liked to.

"Our first priority remains the safety and wellbeing of children and staff."

The parent council and community council are expected to meet next week.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) said it was aware of the situation, and that Aberdeenshire Council's environmental health staff were leading the work.