My fridge is a biohazard, my bathwater has turned lurid green and I don’t know how to dispose of my false teeth. And even ... am I allowed to burn down my own house?
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) has revealed some of the more bizarre requests for help received by staff at its 24-hour emergency call centre at Holytown in North Lanarkshire.
The centre, which usually deals with floods, waste dumping, pollution and a host of other serious problems, occasionally has to cope with calls from people anxious about less earth-shattering matters. Staff have learnt to “expect the unexpected,” Sepa says.
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Amongst the 73,000 phone calls the centre has taken in the last year, some have left trained operators bewildered. One worried caller asked if Sepa inspectors could come to his house to check for “airborne hazards” from a fridge, because everything inside had turned black while it had been switched off for three months.
A mother rang the emergency number, frantic because her bathwater had turned a lurid shade of green. It turned out that the woman’s teenage daughter had spiked a shampoo bottle with hair dye.
An elderly gentleman called up asking how he could safely dispose of an old pair of false teeth. A singing group asked if their annual party would have any environmental health implications, while one woman reported slugs in her kitchen.
“My strangest call was from a guy asking if he could burn his house down,” Sepa quoted one member of staff saying. “It turned out he needed to have it demolished as he was building a new house on the spot and thought that burning it down would be cheaper than having it knocked down. I told him to speak to the fire service.”
One concerned citizen complained that there was a smell “like diesel fumes” coming from a petrol station.
Sepa says other calls included “complaints about the noise of amorous seagulls at Leith docks, hair in a kebab, a lice-infested sofa, dripping showers, burst pipes, gurgling central heating boilers and unsolicited calls from mobile phones”.