In attendance: Laura Cunningham, Colin Beattie MSP, Conor Price (East Lothian Council), Shona Grant (East Lothian Council), Nim Kibbler (Forth Rivers Trust), Peter Finnie (SEPA), Katrina Wilson (SEPA), Paul Butler (SEPA), Ranald Lockhart (SEPA), Tom Mills (Coal Authority), Anne Hyatt (Roslin and Bilston Community Council), Steven Boon (Scottish Water), Scott Fraser (Scottish Water), Ann Stewart Kmicha (Dalkeith), Edel Ryan (Midlothian Council), John Oldham (Esk Valley Trust), Remko Plooij (Dalkeith Country Park), Brian Wailes (Eskbank and Newbattle Community Council), Katy Whitelaw (SEPA), Ben Sutherland.
Apologies - Bill Farnsworth (Musselburgh Racecourse), Philip Duncan (Musselburgh Racecourse), Jonathan Louis (Forth District Salmon Fishery Board), Helen Blackburn (Rosewell & District Community Council), Joy Godfrey (Eskbank and Newbattle Community Council).
CB welcomes the meeting and notes addition of Dalkeith Country Park to members and previous minutes were approved.
CB notes concern from the public that minutes of meetings not published early enough, offers potential solution for minutes to be circulated and two-week deadline put in place for amendments to be submitted, if none the minutes will be automatically accepted and released for public viewing.
CB reminds member to ensure their AOB request to be submitted 7 days prior to meeting.
ASK questions when submitting amendments, how do we get the redraft of the minutes? What is the timescale?
CB: If you ask within the two weeks for an amendment and it is reasonable, minutes will be recirculated, and it will be given a further two weeks for approval.
Item 1: Scottish Water – Steven Boon
Lord Ancrum Wood – Inspections continuing. Monitors we are putting in working well, no issues reported recently.
Benbught Burn – No issues identified.
Hardengreen CSO – No new issues identified. Regular cleaning and checks being carried out every two weeks.
Ochre Burn – Issues reported caused from nearby building site. Work underway to clean out sewers has now been completed. No issues since then.
Eastfield Pumping Station – Continuing to keep an eye on this asset, no issues reported recently. Deep clean and repairs for after bathing season have been programmed and due to start in October, waiting on specific date from contractor which will be weather dependant.
Elm Row, Lasswade – Issues reported, investigations showing work is required to investigate potential for spilling, contractor due to attend last weekend but no updated received yet.
Thicket Burn – Investigated an issue reported by customer, no odours coming from outflow and no signs of sewage, also nothing caught under bars. Build up of solid material from surface water but no evidence of ragging, arranged for some covers to be lifted and will inspect for other signs of sewage.
Fisherrow – No issues reported.
North Esk at Carlops - Reports of discolouration, team sent out to investigate. Customer reported pollution from septic tank, this was checked and no signs of pollutions from SW assets. Farmer out there doing work on field drains identified as cause of discolouration.
Grannies Park – Issues with modelling. Different manhole discharged higher flows, not being seen in model so needs updated. Last week engaged with surveying team to take more cover and invert levels of the network which will be fed back into the model which should be done this week. Purpose of rerunning this is to make sure the model lines up with what is being seen in practice, which will identify what interventions are appropriate to resolve issue and not cause any further problems for customers. Timescale should be only a few days to run and mobilisation of contractors can be done quickly.
SB mentions issue brought up in previous meeting regarding scouring of reservoirs and lack of input from SW, notes SW and SEPA have set up a meeting for 29th September to discuss this and take any appropriate action.
Forth River Trust – Nim Kibbler
Talks progressing with a ‘national funder’ regarding developing a project on the Esk. Further details will be given once they have received further communication from them.
Forth River Trust been funded this year through Marine Scotland as part of the national electrofishing programme. Five of sites selected were on North Esk, so we will be monitoring salmon populations in the Esk.
JO: You said you mentioned you were seeking funding for a project, but I missed what this project is about?
NK explains she is not allowed to disclose any information about this yet.
BW: Question for SW – NCC advised of a supply chain disruption for chemicals for treating sewage, is this affecting us locally? If not, what will the effect be?
SB notes SW try to stay away from use of chemicals for treating sewage, in south use of chemicals mostly supplementary treatment, can aids aspects like settlement. SW tend to manage to meet compliance without these chemicals.
SB explains he is aware of issues in England and Wales, but no signs of anything significant in any SW sites. Some slower delivery but this primarily due to lack of HGV drivers, but again no impact on compliance. Brexit chemical procedure which have been instigated will allow SW to keep track of the chemicals used to ensure procurement issues can be raised.
Coal Authority – Tom Mills
CB notes for TM to provide answer to query submitted by Dalkeith Country Park in AOB.
Coal Authority continuing to monitor mine water, no changes or concerns to report.
General project progress: CA continuing to monitor mine water, no changes or concerns to report. CA working alongside SEPA to look at regulatory and permit side of scheme. In relation to design, business case gone through internal approval process, some initial comments from BEIS which are being worked through. CA hoping to gain approval by end of October, but regardless will continue to push forward with project until a decision is reached. CA working hard to pull together contract documents for main design and build side of scheme, tendering will begin once approval from BEIS completed.
Supply Chain: CA has been engaging with its two main stakeholders to gain views on constructability, lay out and access.
On MLC: Meeting taken place between CA and MLC, led to good discussions regarding planning issues and environmental impact, a number of site-based surveys underway to be submitted to MLC for approval by end of month.
On contractors: Thoughts from contractors are that project is a 12 month process, this is positive. Early indications are that after tendering process the scheme could be commissioned by early 2023, so we will have another summer of impact. Thanks to CB for letter of support for scheme sent to BEIS.
On communications: CA engaging with SEPA on how to up communications, engagement will take place with local community over coming months and regarding the planning process and to widen information to the public regarding planning of site and potential benefits of scheme.
TM addresses question made by Dalkeith Country Park, explains that when CA were looking at different sites and systems, two different ways of treating mine water were discussed. Passive process which is natural treatment, more sustainable and cost effective, however chemical dosing process also possible using less land and far easier to control in terms of output for treatment. CA looked at either active chemical dosing scheme on site adjacent to junkie’s adit or a passive scheme downstream near the country park. When we looked at costs and sustainability of both options, the active scheme came out cheaper and less carbon intensive. Over course of 25 years, chemical dosing scheme comes out £7 million cheaper.
RP asks TM to confirm whether this is treatment scheme will be permanent or whether passive scheme could be introduced at a later stage?
TM explains that this is being developed as permanent scheme, struggles to see a case in which this would change but notes there is always a chance that mine water flows may significantly decrease which could potentially lead to a different scheme being necessary. TM notes that he thinks that is very unlikely, however until BEIS approval there is a chance that they could require further options being explored that wouldn’t require full treatment. If RP would like further conversation this can be arranged.
BW: We’ve been informed there is a significant amount of red sludge reported in sites across North Esk, can you confirm this has been caused by Iron?
TM explains when water mixes within the mine and blends with exposed minerals, when this comes out through system to surface water iron turns into solid state and deposits released. Staining that you see in the riverbed is predominantly iron.
BW: I am particularly worried about the North Esk as this has been seeping over some considerable time. Does it represent a risk to river biodiversity?
TM notes any iron sludge that is visible will have some degree of impact on biodiversity, this is part of the reason for the junkies addict treatment because there is a significant discharge at location and is having an impact on the water course. Treatment will hopefully over short period of time have iron flushed through. Asks Paul Butler for name of place for other place of discharge.
PB: That is Elginhaugh, doesn’t believe that one has changed but may appear worse due to low flow conditions. The site will be sampled by CA and SEPA in Autumn to check if any changes in chemical compilation have occurred.
RP notes a lot of people are having issues with information regarding discolouration and its impact on biodiversity, suggests universal statements on this would be more useful as he feels people are making this up as they go along when describing the impact to customers.
TM states CA and SEPA will put something together and will pick that up and put some consistent words together.
JO asks TM what action will CA move forward with a more modest passive scheme near country park if expenditure not allowed by BEIS and what proportion of reduction in pollution could be achieved with this compared with the active scheme that CA has in mind?
TM: Difficult to say, first point would be to go back to BEIS to provide assurance and see if solution could be found. But detailed study would be required to look at other options to consider how to get full treatability. Also, would need to look at how cost-effective the scheme would be and its environmental benefits.
JO thanks TM for answer, explains that pollution has effect on river to a degree but isn’t sure where that sits on the response curve and to what extent can reduce contamination. Asks TM to clarify if you would have to drop it by 50% or 80% or 95% to have a good effect on the river?
TM: It a very complex system, thinks its fair to say that any reduction of iron or magnesium going into river will have some positive effect, but unsure at what point it would be sufficient to aid fish migration and spawning. Notes this is the issue CA will need to look at, reaffirms that there is some benefit from reduction but whether it is worth the investment is the challenge, probably declining benefit curve.
NC explains that work has been done by colleague Ian Reid on invertebrate population in South Esk and how Iron and Magnesium was affecting them. Notes that conclusively there is an impact on ecological productivity of the river and from electro-fishing data illustrates that fish have predominantly moved out of the area.
ASK explains she is disappointed that it has taken until a question from RP before there was communications from CA. ASK states she did asked at June meeting and was told there was a commitment that there would be something out to the local community. She says this is important as even with active treatment the red iron colour will not disappear from the riverbed unless a clean up operation. A little communication with the public would be really appreciated.
TM recognises the point made by ASK, explains some local engagement has taken place around development site but accept more needs to be done. CA are working with SEPA to be more open and improve engagement.
SEPA – Ranald Lockhart & Katrina Wilson
SEPA been working with SW on number of complaints mentioned. No significant events since last meeting but a number of minor ones which have led to inspections being carried out at Penicuik Sewage Works, Hardengreen, Stormtanks and Havrilwood and no significant issues identified.
On water environment fund: the specification for the structural surveys have been finalised and owners of relevant land and structures have been contacted to allow them to review. These works have been impacted by the cyber-attack, work has been set back in a number of ways, but progress has been made, surveys are to be carried out this financial year. The ecology surveys have been completed for invertebrates and fish in various locations in the North Esk. Feedback is that the results are disappointing, report should be finalised in the coming weeks however there have been issues regarding fish classification caused from a loss of information from the cyber-attack but work is ongoing.
Bathing Waters – Successfully sampled throughout summer and hoping to have analysis over next few weeks which will be available
Cyber Attack – Still trying to build back, lots of information lost which has made reporting difficult. Attempts to regain data ongoing but resources that have been sent to assist recovery have meant less people to doing day-to-day job.
BW asks if SEPA are aware of large invasion of Japanese Knotweed on the North Esk and whether any action is planned?
KW not aware of the situation but will raise this issue with the non-invasive species team.
BW thanks KW for this and says this is becoming an issue with local community.
CB notes there has been historically issues with Japanese Knotweed on the banks of the railway line on Eskbank.
BW mentions it seems to be following course of the river and needs urgent attention.
RL explains this would perhaps be something that landowners and possibly NatureScot would have relevant powers to enforce any invasive weeds. Notes SEPA would only get involved when it was getting offsite to a landfill site.
ASK explains Dalkeith Country Park were very proactive on dealing with this issue earlier in the season and states she believes it is a landowner issue.
CP explains that Musselburgh Flood Prevention Scheme have undertaken a significant programme of invasive species treatment in the area and this year were partnered by Inveresk Village Society. This year MFPS have been predominantly targeting the giant hogweed and the Japanese Knotweed in the proximity of the town, notes this has been a good year but has been an ongoing problem. Notes that MFPS not set up to reduce invasive species in the catchment but ultimately this reduces complexity of constructing projects, therefore proactive treatment is more cost-effective approach for public funds. Hopes to invite all interested parties to an invasive species summit including all organisations within the catchment, community councils and all other interested parties to come together and discuss the problem and help each other to address the issue. Would like this summit to take place before Christmas and asks members to spread the word to those who may wish to be involved.
ER from MLC point of view. We engage actively with landowners to make them aware of invasive species and would like to be involved in summit when this takes place.
East Lothian Council – Shona Grant
Officer sent to take sample at discharge from Newhailes to Fisherrow, currently awaiting results before deciding next steps. Will liaise with SEPA and relevant departments within ELC to discuss outcome and next steps.
East Lothian Council Flood Prevention Scheme – Conor Price
CB asks CP to address bullet point 2 in AOB from Dalkeith Country Park
Good period for MFPS since June, outline design of preferred scheme is underway. CP notes there has been a challenge in relation to terminology of scheme with public consultation as perception has been that due to ‘preferred’ name, people assuming there is already a final product to share, however scheme is only at the beginning of the design process.
Regulatory Working Groups are now underway and strategic communications plans also started, new website almost up and running, this has taken more time than expected but very close to this being live. MFPS have also created message boards across the town to communicate with public.
The process has moved onwards to local area consultation strategy and are now ready to open up contact with key stakeholders to continue next stage of conversation as cascade begins into outline design. After this more meetings with working groups and local area groups will take place, all of which will come together to incapsulate the design via a public exhibition which is expected to happen by Easter 2022.
CP provides slideshow involving images of message boards around the town which explains consultation process to public and shares image explaining the working groups established. CP notes that letters of invitation to join these groups are being hand delivered to around 1200 property who are deemed to be most impacted by construction of physical defences in the area.
First interactive meeting took place Thursday 2nd September in the Edinburgh Road area, next meeting due on Thursday 14th September in the Mountjoy area and thereafter one meeting each week until all areas have been covered.
CP says in last few weeks after working with ELC Environmental Health Team decision made that water sampling will take place at Pinkie Burn and Musselburgh Mill to understand the condition of the water courses and the potential for mine water issues or possible discharges. Once completed, MFPS will be sharing results with SEPA and SW to discuss.
CP addresses question from RP using image showing concept of preferred scheme. CP explains that image illustrates there is physical defences required between the sea and town as well as the river and town, but states there are other management measures in the town and also the possibility of altering SW reservoirs on the South Esk at Rosebury and Edgelaw. There is no delivery strategy been established yet but will be bringing this forward. CP also identifies concept on image which shows natural flood management through the catchment, but again need to advance this. CP raises the opportunity for members to highlight any ideas for natural flood prevention measures either on own land or in area with MFPS.
CP states he expects a debris catcher to be put in place above A1 bridge but below the meeting of the two Esks as this will mean only one catcher required rather than two. This is just a concept, but no changes have been made from private correspondence with RP on this issue in 2019. CP affirms that discussions have been ongoing with Dalkeith Country Park to organise a meeting to discuss this matter.
Midlothian Council – Edel Ryan
No significant updates from last meeting.
CB thanks all for attending.
ASK asks for dates for next meeting.
LC states office will look into this and get back to group.
Meeting ended 11:05am.
In attendance: Laura Cunningham, Colin Beattie MSP, Jonathan Louis (Forth District Salmon Fishery Board), Conor Price (East Lothian Council), Shona Grant (East Lothian Council), Audrey Murray (Enjoy Leisure), Nim Kibbler (Forth Rivers Trust), Peter Finnie (SEPA), Katrina Wilson (SEPA), Philip Duncan (Musselburgh Racecourse), Paul Butler (SEPA), Tom Mills (Coal Authority), Claire Tochel (Fisherrow Harbour Group), Steven Boon (Scottish Water), Scott Fraser (Scottish Water), Ann Stewart Kmicha (Dalkeith), Joy Godfrey (Eskbank and Newbattle), Edel Ryan (Midlothian Council), John Oldham (Esk Valley Trust), Helen Blackburn (Rosewell)
Apologies - Anne Hyatt (Roslin and Bilston), Sue Peart (Landowner of section of Esk)
CB welcomes the meeting and notes previous minutes were approved prior to Parliamentary Recess in March.
Item 1: Scottish Water – Steven Boon
Hardengreen CSO – No new issues identified. Regardless regular cleaning and checks have carried on.
Lord Ancrum Wood – After heavy rain some minor ragging at outfall. Scottish Water attended and cleared this up last week. Continuing 6 monthly cleaning of sewer network – checking for ragging and root ingress – next check due before end of June.
Benbught Burn – No issues identified.
Fisherrow – Carrying out regular cleans and checks. SB notes that any issues here are quite sporadic with the tides and they will commit to continue to check as necessary.
Ochre Burn – Although Scottish Water have no assets there discharging but Scottish Water did send a team to check this out. As a precaution Scottish Water did a survey of the nearest sewer to this location. Sewer had some issues and there had been some development which created silt within manholes and network in that location near Newbattle High School. Scottish Water have cleared this. SB notes there may have been a connection between that and discharge from land drains there. Scottish Water have been checking, it has remained dry since and it is hoped to be resolved now.
Eastfield Pumping Station – discharges out to the water that could potentially impact Fisherrow. Over years carried out work here and recently, focusing on ensuring pumping station is operating as best it can. Operational Working Group now up and running with SEPA and other relevant stakeholders to give updates on how it is performing and any improvements that need made. Last update given contractors were going to carry out survey of station to check out condition of pumps and other equipment. Checking if any equipment needed replaced or refurbished. There is work needing to be carried out but SB notes Scottish Water do not want to carry work out during bathing season in case any issues are caused so it will happen after bathing season. This has no impact on pumping station. SB notes Scottish Water did a full clean of pumping station when operational which worked well. Afterwards, Scottish Water have been better hydraulic performance from pumps.
Issue behind Grannies Park behind McGregor signs, Dalkeith – Scottish Water are still working on this. PFI assest but regardless SF and SB will continue to monitor. Established this issue is not ongoing and only occurs during high flows. Need to wait for heavy rainfall to investigate if there is a hydraulic restriction causing discharge from manhole. SF notes Scottish Water scheduled to go out today to see if there are any updates.
CB notes last update received on Grannies Park, Veolia involved. Scottish Water continue to follow up with Veolia.
ASK asks Scottish Water regarding the dates 8 June and 10 June whereby Scottish Water released some water from the reservoirs without coordinating with other agencies. ASK states this caused issues on South Esk causing iron colour to be flushed down the river. ASK would like more coordination in future from Scottish Water when they do a release.
SB states he does not know about that but will pass back team.
CB invites CT to ask a question. CT wanted to know how long Eastfield pumping station had been underperforming for and whether that has caused the low quality at 5 or so years at Fisherrow? CT also notes on the delayed work due to bathing season but Fisherrow does not have an official bathing season because of poor quality.
SB answers work taken over past few years has been in phases. First phase carried out around couple years ago ensured pumps were resilient, issues where pumps were failing too regularly so replaced all pumps. Next phase was control of the pumps, the pumps are controlled by a computer and the pumps kept coming on in wrong order which reduced flowed going forward. This was fixed. Phase 3 was to ensure it was a clear as possible to hydraulically pump everything forward as best it can. First part of that has been done and second part will be carried out after bathing season. SB notes ST point that there is no official bathing season at Fisherrow but SEPA and Scottish Water keep an eye on this.
SB carries on addressing issues with Eastfield pumping station itself. From Monday 21 June back 12 months, there was 8 days where the pump discharged over the last 365 days typically during periods of high rainfall. It appears the clean has helped resolve this and 0 instances of discharge have occurred since.
SB states licensed conditions. Scottish Water are licensed to bring forward around 947 litres per second from Eastfield. However, they have not had high enough flows to prove if this is possible. Maximum at this moment, it has only reached 700 litres per second and the pumping station has never been beaten yet. Pump performance individually: pump 1 can do 230 litres per second; pump 2, 150 litres per second; pump 3 150 litres per second; pump 4 has only done 75 litres per second. Important to note all pumps are the same so it shows a maximum a pump can do is in region of 230 litres per second. Hydraulically, if the first one gets beaten it will call on the next one and so on. This tells us the pumping station has potential to do 900 litres per second if needed but it is difficult to prove as it has never reached that point. There is also a fifth pump on standby.
Forth River Trust – Nim Kibbler
NK is a project manager for FRT and notes she is standing in for Iain Reid. NK mentions JO held a meeting last night where they discussed the Esk Valley Trust working closely with Riverfly as part of the bug life project. NK states two years ago when she last spoke to SEPA they stated the Riverfly partnership which is used within partnership with the Environment Agency as a trigger mechanism for community science for monitoring pollution impacts, but they do not work SEPA. This is because trigger levels within science project do not work with SEPA. NK was interested to hear SEPA are working with Riverfly now on the Esk specifically on the iron discharge and is therefore curious is SEPA has fixed the issue.
CB invites SEPA to comment. KW does not know but will find out.
NK notes FRT train individuals and community groups in riverfly and have thousands of records that have been gathered by members of the community and would like these brought online if possible.
NK further notes FRT are awaiting to heard on funding for a project focusing on environmental justice and environmental advocacy. CB asks when they should hear back. NK states end of August.
CB invites members to ask NK questions.
JO notes the Esk Riverfly team approached Esk Valley Trust to work under the umbrella of EVT, therefore they will support them and allow them to operate under the Trust. JO hopes that information gathered will be used by SEPA and notes steady monitoring might prove useful.
NK offers EVT support with training if needed.
Coal Authority – Tom Mills
TM shares a presentation with the members on Bilston Glen – Mine Water Treatment Scheme.
TM provides general update. Coal Authority continue to monitor Junkies Adit. Latest sample results from 9 June show iron concentration holding around 45mg/litre similar to previous samples; manganese concentration have increased slightly to around 5-5.2mg/litres which is highest reading; also small increase in nickel. Weir reading still fluctuates regularly. Indicates that it has not settled down in terms on consistent chemistry which presents challenges in terms of design but hopes it will start to stabilise in coming months.
General project progress: the on site treatment trials were completed in May and hopes results are ready by end of July. The purpose of the trial was to help shape the design of the treatment scheme, understand what chemicals work best to extract iron out of lime water and chemical dosing rates.
Coal Authority have been putting together a detailed business case for treatment scheme. Approval has to be sought from the executive and BEIS due to size of investment. Any proposal over 5 million needs approved by BEIS.
Coal Authority have also started to look at design options in order to start having discussions with planners and in the early stages of putting together tender information for the main design.
As Covid-19 restrictions ease, they are looking at how they can step up engagement with local communities. Coal Authority have recently seen an increase in public enquires and activity on social media, this may be as a result of the river being impacted by the mine water and looking red. They are keen to get more information out there on this.
TM shares photos of what an active treatment plan may look like. Displays a scheme in Dawdon in North East which is the biggest active treatment plan the Coal Authority currently manage. This scheme is in an industrial estate and is designed to fit in there. For Bilston Glen, Coal Authority would look to design something that fits in with the setting. Internally the industrial process would be similar by stripping out the iron from the water and returning the clean water to the river.
Coal Authority are currently challenged with the scheme in the next stage and getting approval for the funding. Over 25 years, it will cost £25 million: £10 million initial capital investment to build the plant and £15 million to operate. It is important that the benefits are presented to BEIS, initially present economic appraisal which is currently lower than the cost of the scheme so there may be a need to also demonstrate non-financial benefits which they are working with SEPA on. The scale of the scheme compared to other treatments schemes is large – there are 13 treatment schemes in Scotland and the cost of Bilston Glen will potentially be the same or more than all 13 schemes combined.
Coal Authority’s next step is to continue working with partners such as SEPA in developing the scheme and implement wider stakeholder engagement. The primary focus to to get the funding approved for the scheme and continue to develop designs. There is no timescale for this but will update the group once a timescale becomes clearer.
TM concludes and ask the group to ask questions.
CB asks for a copy of the slides presented and Laura will circulate to attendees once received. CB goes on to ask from past experience of projects like this, will the situation correct itself or stop in future?
TM states this scheme is collecting at the mine water at its source which gives more potential that the slows could alter as there is so much underground which could alter but this is rare. However, if you are to pump the mine water directly from the mine then that can be a reduced risk but with Bilston Glen but because of the way the workings are they are on an extremely steep syncline that if you were to try access this it would create significant risks and create higher operational costs. If mine water is emanating from the surface, they will collect at that point because that is where it has found a route to come out. In terms of chemistry changes, no changes really seen once stabilised unless an acid flush occurs, but these changes can be managed.
CB further asks how the iron ore and manganese in its hardened formed is disposed of.
TM explains traditionally the only option would be to go into landfill but over the years other alternatives have been sought which depends on the type of sludge created. In England, some can be spread on agricultural land. At Bilston Glen, options have been looked at and worst case scenario would be landfill. However, would work with SEPA and other organisations to look at other options.
NK thanks the Coal Authority for taking on this issue and notes the Forth Rivers Trust are inundated with issues reported from the community regarding social and environmental of the scheme and how the cost analyses is carried out. NK asks what plan B is if plan A is not approved and who would take responsibility?
TM explains that before plan A would reach a point of rejection, the Coal Authority will build their case and emphasise non-economic factors. If plan A is not approved, Coal Authority would work with SEPA on what can be done with the benefits and this may be a scheme which provides improvement but not on a large scale but the decrease in benefits must also be considered. The first port of call would be to build a stronger case and ask for funding again on plan A.
NK clarifies with TM that plan B is to build a stronger case for plan A. TM responds BEIS would give feedback and they would work to better understand the concerns raised but gives reassurance that concerns are discussed and before any application is fully submitted. TM states he thinks they are building a strong vase but notes competing interests in funding.
NK asks for more clarity on message the Forth Rivers Trust provides public and clarifies again the above with TM. TM notes SEPA involved at the moment with the case and SEPA would be very much involved in plan B and escalate within BEIS. NK happy with response.
CB asks how he can support the Coal Authority with the funding application. TM states a letter of support may help. CB is happy to provide and asks TM to note the main points needing focused on for support.
ASK enquires about the messages to the local community and states it needs urgent attention because the majority of the community don’t know what is happening exactly and goes on to state in the last year and a half there has been a decrease in the water quality. ASK asks the Coal Authority to issue a message as soon as possible to help inform people.
ASK further asks about the manganese filtration. TM will give an answer at a later date. PB notes that this is complex and the South Esk is strange as PH rises the manganese becomes more available which tends to happen in the summer months but notes more work is being undertaken on this.
PB further contributes to the BEIS case stating letters of support would be appreciated and SEPA and Coal Authority are working closely to find solutions. PB further notes not one party is solely responsible legally and it must be a partnership.
JO adds that the Esk Valley Trust have discussed the action of MSPs and MPs in providing support and lobbying BEIS and the UK Government.
CB contributes that the local authorities may also be able to support. TM will take this issue and let the group know what will be most effective to support the funding.
JG enquires what the local communities can do? Where should this be directed? TM thinks the community feedback will be beneficial and will confirm at a later date how communities can contribute.
JL offers any information of fishing rights on the river and notes this will have an economic impact. JL goes on to asks if there is an increase in the absorption of manganese throughout the year where it may not be detrimental to the general public, what is the impact on the organisms in the river? Is there a case where it might be impacting anglers who take home and eat the fish and should we be notifying the anglers and warning the public?
PB comment previously last year there was an NHS Lothian Health Protection Team study looking at this and thinks best option would be to revisit this study and get the professionals to consider the updated data. ER will go back to the health professionals at NHS Lothian and Food Standards Scotland to establish this and notes in terms of support this will be communicated to Midlothian Council to see how they can offer support.
CP notes he will similarly communicate this with East Lothian Council and goes on to ask about the long-term potential for water pollution to reduce? Will this be reduced forever or reduced to an acceptable level? TM answers that pollution will decrease but over a long time which can takes hundreds of years.
CB concludes and asks TM to provide information later how we can provide support.
SEPA – Katrina Wilson
No significant updates since the last meeting. The public are still reporting issues to SEPA but nothing significant. The impact of the cyber-attack is easing off with some services able to resume but remains an issue.
As part of the Water Environment Fund, there has been agreed funding for structural surveys of Dalkeith Weir, Montague and Iron Mill this financial year. Specification has been written using advice from East Lothian Council as a lesson learned and field work must be carried out during low flows conditions which may be spring of next year. The fish ecologists are happy for investigations to take place from Dalkeith to Dalhousie.
Fisherrow Sands – no improvement in the bathing water quality in 2020 and therefore, it is not suitable to request bathing status. SEPA will continue to take samples.
SEPA sent ecologists have visited 7 sites across the Esk and they have taken interverbrae samples. The bank side analysis suggests a dip in results in mine water discharge.
CB asks how much data SEPA will be able to retrieve following the cyber-attack?
KW explains certain departments will receive some data back. This will happen over time and it is not yet confirmed that all data will be able to be retrieved. PF explains the data retrieved needs a specialised cleanse as it could be contaminated, then verified and then handed back which needs to happen with each individual piece of data. It is a long process. CB wishes SEPA well.
CT follows up on Fisherrow and asks if samples will be communicated this year? KW explains the results will not be put on the website as it is not a designated bathing water and would be subject to a FOI request.
CT goes on to states that the community’s goal is to have Fisherrow as a designated bathing water, is there a timescale? KW states there is no confirmed timescale currently.
CB refers back to a previous discussion with Scottish Water regarding septic tanks and the overflow possibly going into the Esk. Currently we do not know how many are discharging or if they are contributing to the pollution in the Esk. There is no requirement to licence these tanks. CB states that this licence may not need legislation and asks if the requirement of licence would come from SEPA?
KW isn’t sure but refers to the register which people only tend to register their septic tank when they move house because they have not previously registered this even though it is a requirement. However, it the pollution is on land it is passed to the local authority and if it is water SEPA will respond. CB asks if local authority be the licensing authority or SEPA if a system was implemented? KE explains SEPA keep a register but will not licences. CB states we need to understand where the septic tanks are. PF mentions local authorities might be aware of what properties are not paying sewage costs and perhaps they should be contacting them to persuade people to register their tank.
ER states the local authority may know who has a septic tank and there is a need to establish what is being looked for. Some septic tanks are far from water and therefore, will not be contributing to any pollution in the water. CB states the ultimate aim to identify potential sources of pollution into the water.
SB adds that licences would need to be developed for the tanks then followed up with sampling of the septic tanks. Without this. it would be a challenge to legislate septic tanks and the lay person who owns a septic tank probably has no knowledge as to how their tanks is performing. It would a very difficult ask and would require a lot of information for the public to understand.
CP notes the existing requirement for owners to register their tanks with SEPA and asks if there is a register in place it should be easy to identify the number septic tanks registered around the Esk catchment and ask if there is a potential to extract this data from system? CP further notes however this is just one possible point of discharge and SEPA have already carried out work trying to identify points of discharge across Esk.
KW advises septic tanks should be registered with SEPA but there is not a full list as people only tend to register when moving property.
East Lothian Council – Shona Grant
East Lothian Council are aware of the discharge in Fisherrow from the former landfill site at Newhailes. East Lothian Council and SEPA met to discuss this and will look at what is required to help resolve. In meantime, samples will be taken.
SG also updates the Group on the signage on the bathing status. This was raised with SEPA but no issue was found with the signage and it is adequate.
East Lothian Council Flood Prevention Scheme – Conor Price
The scheme has been busy reopening its consultation to Musselburgh and have been liaising with the Community Council and Musselburgh conservation society. Their enhanced communication strategy is picking up place and a new website should be live soon which will be followed by a newsletter. Local area consultation groups have been confirmed and residents will receive a letter in due course to notify them of the first meeting. Additional notice boards have also been placed along the coast line at Fisherrow.
The design process remains within the team and they are currently focusing on technical matters in order to show options which can be taken. Consultation will be presented early autumn.
Following on from the last meeting, the Scheme continue to tackle invasive species through the river corridor in partnership with the Inveresk Village Society. CP hopes to have a working group set up on invasive species and asks if anyone in the Group interested to contact him.
Midlothian Council – Edel Ryan
No significant updates from the last meeting.
ER refers back to a question raised on hydropower Lothianbridge Weir and the wider context of hydropower generally on the Esk with the Midlothian area. Midlothian Council and Vattenfall, a Swedish owned energy firm, have launched a new energy services company in Midlothian which is a joint 50/50 venture. It aims to deliver low carbon energy projects. It will look at district heating schemes, electric vehicles, solar power, and direct wire supply to commercial properties. At this time, in terms of hydropower, direct wire feeding to local businesses is favoured over feeding power into the main grid. In relation to the Esk, in previous years there have been a number of areas on the Esk looked at including Lothianbridge Weir but none have progressed at this time.
PB adds on the subject of energy that the mine workings have left us with an interconnected array of tunnels that contain water that is relatively warm which is a fantastic source of heat under the central belt. Good source of heat which can be used in the future to help Scotland reach Net Zero.
Group Members invited to make further comments
JG mentions the Eskbank and Newbattle community council have been looking at the new local development plan and it states in parts of the plan there are growth upgrades required at Roslin, Rosewell, Penicuik and Gorebridge sewage pumping stations to accommodate the housing building at some of these sites. JG asks will this reduce the number of CSOs pumping sewage into the South Esk? SB explains in response upgrades streaming works themselves wouldn’t have any impact on the flows within the network as they are end of pipe. There are things currently being worked on at these treatment works on a temporary basis enable growth and then a strategic plan looking at the above assets to see what needs to be done overall.
CT mentions ragging down from broken sea defence at Morrisons Haven. CP states he will visit and take action.
SF shares a message from Reservoir Safety Manager at Scottish Water which refers back to a point earlier in the meeting regarding the high flows following dam inspections. Establishes there was work carried out as Glencourse and Esk Law whereby valves are opened for a short period of time to ensure reservoirs are operating correctly and protecting public water supplies. NK asks if this can be communicated in advance in future. SF will pass message to relevant team.
NK raises a question on behalf of Gorebridge Community Association regarding a gravity sewer pipe broke near one of the treatment works and asks SW if this has been fixed. SB unsure but will find out.
NK also raises reports of two children being sick after paddling in the water seems it might be related to spills from the pumping station at Taylor Wimpey site at Harvieston. SB notes Scottish Water will not take over the site until work is complete at developer site but will look at the issue.
PD updates the group on a recent incident at Musselburgh Racecourse. The racecourse and golf course use the River Esk for water for the courses via a mill lade. Water did suddenly stop on Thursday 24 due a build up of silt. They rely on a consistent and clean water supply as the location suffers in the hot weather. Any alternatives prove expensive to the course. CP demonstrates a map to the Group to give context and explains SEPA in last 12 to 18 months have placed a licence for extraction onto the mill lade which has resulted on a new regime of letting water into mill lade and has presented challenges. There may need to have additional operational measures in places into the licences so that there is clear definition of how the inlet remains clear at the Weir and where just now a natural deposition from the river has resulted in the inlet pipes being blocked but the ability to remove the sediment is restricted by only being allowed during summer working. During summer, intervention will be needed as a drought scenario will occur. CP is currently in discussion with Alison Baker from Forth Rivers Trust on this matter. CB asks for an update at the next meeting.
CB thanks all for attending,
Meeting concludes at 1:15pm.
In attendance – Louise Cameron, Colin Beattie MSP, Jonathan Louis (Forth District Salmon Fishery Board), Sue Peart (Landowner of section of Esk), Conor Price (East Lothian Council), Shona Grant (East Lothian Council), Audrey Murray (Enjoy Leisure), Iain Reid (Forth Rivers Trust), Peter Finnie (SEPA), Natalie Walker (Scottish Water), Katrina Wilson (SEPA), Philip Duncan (Musselburgh Racecourse), Paul Butler (SEPA), Tom Mills (Coal Authority), Pauline Crerar (Fisherrow Harbour Group), Anne Hyatt (Roslin and Bilston), Steven Boon (Scottish Water), Ann Stewart Kmicha (Dalkeith), Joy Godfrey (Eskbank and Newbattle)
Apologies – Helen Blackburn, Jeff Stevenson, Roger Crofts, Laura Goble, Scott Fraser
CB welcomes the group and invites the group to approve the previous minutes. JG asks for an amendment under ‘Further Comments’ section. LC will action this, and other than this minor amendment the minutes are approved by the group.
Scottish Water – Steven Boon (CB)
Lord Ancrum Wood – There have been no significant issues since last meeting.
Benbught Burn – Scottish Water have completed this clean up. They have recorded new CSO’s and will now also be able to keep track of these.
Hardengreen CSO – There have been no significant issues identified.
Ochre Burn – There were reports of grey water from last meeting and so they have undertaken some investigations. Scottish Water don’t have any assets there, and this issue is likely to be coming from a field drain. They are undertaking a CCTV investigation of the sewers in the area to check there are no connections they aren’t aware of and are also doing a dye test. CB asks if field drains must be registered. SB says not with Scottish Water but possibly with SEPA.
CP notes he has some general knowledge on field drains. If they were put in under landowners Scotland act 1958 then they may have a record of it, but field drains can be put in by farmers and not registered, and as such it can be very difficult to find out what is or isn’t in a field.
SB notes that field drains monitoring wouldn’t be managed by Scottish Water and that to register them all would be a huge task. KW responds that SEPA also don’t have register of field drains but there would be merit in having a register of any drainage going into the Esk, whether that be field drains or septic tanks.
SB continues by updating on the Eastfield Wastewater Pumping Station – Scottish Water are proposing a two-stage approach to future work. This will include a full clean of the pumping station and they will also check the pen stops which allow them to close off flows. These are currently not fully sealing so they want to see why this is the case. They will see if there’s anything else which needs to be done and will promote a project to look at this for the future.
Musselburgh and Fisherrow – They have recently undertaken work in this area as there was sewage related debris on the beach, which they used heavy machinery to remove and this cost around £60,000. They have also committed to doing a weekly walk to keep track of material. Rentokil were out last Friday and have picked up more material. They are working with the Musselburgh Street Clean Group to provide support and get people from Scottish Water out to help cleaning beach. They are having regular sessions with this group to keep them updated. The ragging material at the site is very old, and these are not fresh spills and have likely been in the water for a while. The beach may be a depositing ground for a larger area. They are doing work with the local community to promote the 3P’s messaging.
NW further adds that they are working with Keep Scotland Beautiful on their beach campaign and focusing on the 3P’s. They are planning to do events and go to schools, as well as getting messaging to the community (Covid-19 permitting).
PC responds that the 3P’s messaging needs to be fed into a community wider than Musselburgh. SB agrees that the issue could be much wider than Fisherrow, and potentially the debris could be coming from across the whole of the Forth.
JL queries whether CSOs and outfalls are regularly screened. SB clarifies that not all CSOs are licensed to be screened, but they adhere to this where they are licensed to do so. JL asks why all CSOs are not required to be screened? KW assumes that this is what is in the legislation and therefore there’s no requirement, but she will come back with more information on this. CB asks from SEPA’s point of view whether screening would be a good thing. KW says that this could be desirable, providing it doesn’t cause flooding. SB furthers that a request for screening would need to be driven by legislation and funding availability, but historically if it hasn’t required a screen then one won’t be put in, as funding can be difficult to acquire if it’s not a requirement and screens can be expensive. SB notes they are very expensive also. For Example, Lord Ancrum Wood would have cost about £1 million.
CP adds that regarding the material on beach in Musselburgh, this could be a natural area of deposition, with material travelling from a huge distance, even Norway in an extreme weather event. CP thinks it would be a good thing to have CSOs screened but wonders if this is viable or sensible, as no sewage system in country can deal with a major storm event and CSOs are a natural relief point for when there is too much water in the system. We also can’t underestimate the scale that this would be, as there may well be more CSO’s than we know of.
SB notes that regarding new housing developments, they can’t stop houses being built, but they need to do appropriate checks to ensure the network and pumps and treatment sites can take the flows. A developer applies with proposal for the network and they may need to put in place measures to mitigate flooding connected with their development. They look at development plan over the next 25 years and also current applications, but no single person is responsible for this process – it falls to a number of groups.
ASK raises concerns about road at Old Grannys Park. SB has asked ASK to get back to her via email as he can’t comment on specifics. SB mentions roadworks and the perception that work isn’t being done, but with sewer cleaning they will lift the manholes, put hose in and push the material through. If it’s a soft blockage they can be in and out in an hour.
JG brings up the Hardengreen CSO and notes that in January and February there has been rag hanging out of it. SB responds that they are cleaning Hardengreen CSO regularly, and can’t do any remodelling, so for now they need to make sure it’s working the way it should and clean it regularly. SB reiterates if you see anything report it. NW adds that they can’t take action until we know about these issues and people need to report these things when they see them.
PC asks regarding new developments, have any new developments had new assets? SB responds that yes, many have, and they have either installed new part of network or they need to build a part of an asset to not overwhelm the network. SB notes that if there is a need then they can ask developers to work with them to improve network and put assets in place. IR asks if there are any assets of this kind built on the Esk, but SB is not certain at this time. SP asks how many houses have been built since the last major sewer development, as the system was only built to meet current capacity. NW has noted question and will get back to SP.
JG notes there are 700 houses being built between Mayfield and Easthouses and asks if this will be flowing into the network at the Maryburn. SB notes it will connect to nearest sewer but in terms of geography isn’t sure.
ASK asks if we can have more information on this to share with CCs.
Forth Rivers Trust - Iain Reid
Forth Rivers Trust took invertebrate samples in October and are currently processing these and will share this with the group once it’s ready. These samples focus on sites around Junkie’s Adit and seeing how things are progressing over time. They have applied for funding to try to get local improvements in the community for cleanliness. Invertebrate data will tie in with fish surveys, but unfortunately there is not much budget for electrofishing going forward.
Coal Authority – Tom Mills
The Coal Authority are continuing to monitor Junkies Adit and are taking weekly samples. There are no major changes, the iron is at 40-50mg/litre and the manganese 4.5mg/litre, which is all relatively stable, but they don’t have enough data to say this is final chemistry. They are validating the flow litres/second out of the adit and have made progress over last month with this. This will be important for the design of future treatment schemes.
In relation to treatment trials, they will firstly undertake lab-based trial using samples from Junkies Adit. There will be field based trials in April on site. All this information will help them establish how best to treat the water and the cost of the scheme. The current focus is on removing the iron as this is having a very serious impact, though they are not disregarding manganese. In terms of immediate next steps, there will be an internal approval process to go through given the high costs of this programme, and this will also go through BEIS. Over the next 2 months they will be finalising the business cases and getting approval. If that is successful, from May onwards they will have completed the trials, will hopefully get the funding approved and will be able to design the future plant.
CB asks whether the level of the water in the mine has stabilised? TM responds that it appears to have done so. They have been monitoring this for years and it appears to have reached a level, and they are confident that this water is managing to drain the system. They would like more confidence that the flow and chemistry levels are stable, and they will get this over the coming months. They would like to do more validation work on the flow, and then they can size the future mine water scheme. CB notes Edgehead has had issues with water running red and asks if they will do anything to rectify that. TM replies that with Bilston Glen it is relatively easy to pick this up at the mine, so the work at Junkies Adit won’t affect any other areas, but CB should get back to TM with details of this site if it’s a long-standing issue. TM will let us know if it’s one they monitor or if they have plans in the future.
ASK asks if site will be down the river or somewhere else. TM notes that in relation to previous conversations about active and passive schemes, if the mine water from Junkies Adit were to be treated by a passive treatment system, they would have to pump the water a significant distance as there is not much land nearby, and this would also be a significant operational maintenance cost. Looking at 25-year costs, it is more efficient in terms of cost to use a chemically dosed treatment plant, and the proposed scheme would be the land adjacent to Junkies Adit.
IR notes it would be useful to have a written timeline from the key stakeholder. The Coal Authority have done this clearly and he would like to see this clearly from Scottish Water and SEPA. This would also be useful so we can see what has been taken forward via ERIG.
SEPA – Peter Finnie
SEPA provided a written report to update the group in advance of the meeting.
PF adds that, as explained in the report, there’s a limit to what they can say and what can be shared is on their website. SEPA is restricted at present and they can’t give detailed answers as they don’t have access to the data to back it up.
PB adds that they are working closely with the Coal Authority on the mine water issue. Ideally, they would like to get back to monitoring the river soon. On the issue of the water at Edgehead, there are shallow mine workings in the area, and they can work with Coal Authority to assess this and get back to us on that. Treating the iron at Junkies Adit is the current priority as that’s what’s having the biggest effect on the ecology.
ASK asks whether they could consider creating a resource for cyber security for schools. PF responds that the matter is ongoing, and they are working with cyber specialists at the Scottish Government and at a national level, but they are sure that the lessons learned will be shared amongst the public sector.
Note on mine water discharges at Edgehead:
The Coal Authority and SEPA are aware of two mine water discharges in the Edgehead area. The Edgehead discharge is sourced from a small and isolated area of underground mine workings. These workings are close to the surface. Available data suggest this discharge has a high iron concentration, but the flow of water is low. This may give rise to a local impact. The discharge at Blinkbonny Wood relates to a former surface coal mine. Available data indicates that both the iron concentration and the flow of this discharge are low. We understand that the impact on the wider water environment is minor, so these discharges aren’t prioritised for treatment at this time. SEPA propose a joint Coal Authority and SEPA inspection and sampling to confirm our current understanding.
East Lothian Council – Shona Grant
East Lothian Council have been involved in the Fisherrow site and observations, and they would be keen to promote 3P’s campaign. Many people not aware they are on a septic tank and many are outdated, so it would be good to highlight septic tank discharging, but they will need to work with other local authorities along the river.
SB adds that Scottish Water track any septic tanks under their remit, but they have none on the Esk and only one private tank on their record. KW have a register of those who have registered their septic tank, and highlights this a requirement if you change ownership, and as such when people move house this drives them to register the septic tank. IR notes they have data from 2016 of the Esk and record any pollution on their database, which they could share with the agencies. KW notes this would be beneficial.
SP comments the local authority will hold a record of who has septic tanks as they will likely ask not to pay sewerage charges, and so those exempt from paying sewerage charges would likely have a septic tank. SP suggests the Local Authority could do a questionnaire on this. KW say SEPA would find this useful to find sources of sewage.
PC enquires as to Fisherrow’s bathing water status for this year and if there is going to be signage at Fisherrow. PF notes that they are still doing sampling at Fisherrow water, and that there is an electronic sign at Fisherrow but the general advice is against bathing. The meetings only suspended due to issues around Covid-19 and also SEPA communications but they will recommence.
Musselburgh Flood Protection Scheme - Conor Price
The Flood Protection Scheme is funded 80% by the Scottish Government and 20% by East Lothian Council and CP is the Managing Design Consultant for the council. The council’s approved and preferred Flood Protection Scheme is a £42 million project, which provides protection to 3000-4000 properties and business, prevent flooding of Esk and Forth. The preferred approach is new physical defences, stretching from Inveresk Weir to the mouth of the Esk and will then tie into the sea wall, and the defences stretch to the road bridge at the Brunstane Burn. The outline design is currently ongoing. There are options to reduce the level of water coming out of the Esk at the catchment area. This would involve flood management interventions across the catchment, with a debris catcher upstream from Musselburgh, and possible interventions on the Pinkie Burn. The outline design started in Feb 2020, and Fisherrow Harbour and Seafront Association and the local Community Council are engaged. During 2020 they undertook survey work across the town and did an analysis and technical preparation for the outline design, but this hasn’t been taken forward as they wanted to do this in consultation with stakeholders. Within 6 weeks they will look to put in place a standalone website and newsletter which will be sent out to the relevant EH21 households and will restart stakeholder working groups. They hope to get back to communicating with people and having events at Brunton Hall as soon as they can. They will bring the scheme to approval in 2022/23 and approve the main works contract in 2024/25 and bringing flood protection in 2025/26.
Midlothian Council – No representative
SP notes the site is a hydroelectric scheme and the infrastructure is there, but no one has spoken to the site owners regarding the site. SP says that it’s concerning that discussions are ongoing but not including landowners. The weir has been there for over 200 years. If anyone needs information on the site, they are welcome to discuss this with SP and she says that no one has been to look at the site. LC to follow up with Edel Ryan about further discussions relating to the hydroelectric potential at this site.
IR (FRT) would like to have further discussions with SP. Weirs were previously managed and this would have allowed fish migration, but now these have become barriers.
ASK adds there has been a lot of conversations on this in relation to a bigger conversation on economic generation in Midlothian and talks of hydroelectric potential at the Lothianbridge site.
Future of ERIG (JG)
ENCC are keen for ERIG to continue. They think the group could be developed to help communities feel important. CB has said it is necessary for it to continue and the group will continue post-election.
Comprehensive Esk Map (JG)
ENCC would like to see a monitoring site map which is comprehensive, including CSOs, barriers, and septic tanks, to allow the community to see where the gaps are. IR adds that Forth Rivers Trust are preparing something like this for all rivers in their catchment, with an interactive map where you can look at non-sensitive invertebrate and barrier data. They have some reporting tools where members of the public can report things such as spawning fish. This is not currently online but it’s in development. They also hold data on where there is non-native invasive species.
CP adds that on the matter of invasive non-native species, there has been an issue with Giant Hogweed and Japanese Knotweed in areas where they may look at defences. There are significant health and safety risks with getting access to these sites. They are intensively treating these invasive species at these sites with permission of the landowners. There is a local Inveresk led effort to tackle Giant Hogweed. The village society have created a group of spotters to track the spread and local owners report sightings on their properties. CP aspires to coordinate this into catchment scale effort, as no amount of work in Musselburgh alone will stop seeds travelling down from upstream in the catchment. They are looking at catchment-wide steering group.
IR adds that they are treating invasive species with glyphosate. They need multiple stakeholders on board from many council bodies to stop seeds going downstream.
Faecal Bacterial Monitoring (JG)
ENCC would like to know if this is being monitored in the Esk by SEPA, and what the data is and where its being monitored. They would like a copy of this data. KW says that with the loss of all their data currently they don’t know what they will get back, but they hope to do sampling this year.
LC informs the group that the minutes will be approved via email rather than in a meeting to avoid delays relating to the election.
ASK notes Laura Goble is looking to host an event on riverfly on the Esk.
JG highlights that she believes there is a gap in wider community being involved in ERIG.
PF thanks CB for the efforts he has put into this group, and notes SEPA is keen for this group to continue, as it connects communities and stakeholders going forward on an important issue.
Meeting closed at 12 noon.
In attendance – Colin Beattie MSP, Louise Cameron (Parliamentary Assistant), Laura Goble (Newbattle Abbey College), Edel Ryan (Midlothian Council), Iain Reid (Forth Rivers Trust), Jeff Stevenson (Danderhall and District), Anne Hyatt (Roslin and Bilston), Philip Duncan (Musselburgh Racecourse), Roger Crofts (Esk Valley Trust), Ann Stewart Kmicha (Dalkeith), Helen Blackburn (Rosewell and District), Shona Grant (East Lothian Council), David Temple (Loanhead), Scott Fraser (Scottish Water), Steven Boon (Scottish Water), Tom Mills (Coal Authority), Joy Godfrey (Eskbank and Newbattle), Pauline Crerar (Fisherrow Harbour Group)
Apologies - Jonathan Louis (Forth District Salmon Fishery Board), Vicki White (SEPA), Peter Finnie (SEPA)
Welcome by CB and previous minutes approved by the group.
LC notes the apologies and highlights that SEPA have had a serious cyber-attack. They have asked to emphasise that they wanted to attend the meeting, but technical difficulties have prevented them from doing so. More can be found out on this matter at: https://www.sepa.org.uk/about-us/cyber-attack/
Issues carried over from last meeting: The group would like some more information on flood prevention from East Lothian Council from Conor Price. Regarding the signage matter at Fisherrow, the wording was approved by Scottish Water and SEPA, but further signage falls into remit of SEPA. Regarding the matter of trees in the Esk – the team responsible for that was identified by East Lothian Council and this comes under David Northcott, the Council’s Team Manager for Structures and Flooding.
Scottish Water – Scott Fraser (SF) and Steven Boon (SB)
SB firstly provides an update on the Hardengreen CSO. Scottish Water are continuing with regular cleaning, and there are intelligence alarms in place. By nature, CSO’s are licensed to spill during heavy rainfall, so they compare spills with the weather conditions. When it’s dry weather and there is a spill, they do a site visit to investigate the issue. There have been no significant issues since the last ERIG meeting. Modelling work has been undertaken where they looked at the possibility for any adjustments to the CSO, but they found that this would cause issues both upstream and potentially downstream, so it is not possible.
On the topic of the Benbught Burn, a significant clean-up has been completed. There have been no further call outs following this clean-up.
Regarding the Lord Ancrum Wood, Scottish Water were notified of a spill a few weeks ago. Investigation shows it was surface water, and network is being investigated. The intelligent systems are working well there.
CB asks how lockdown has impacted projects on the Esk. SB notifies the group that as they are key workers at Scottish Water, and so there has been no impact.
ASK would like to know if there was sewerage work undertaken by Scottish Water, as a major road was closed down over the weekend relating to a sewer issue. SB asked ASK to send a note directly to him so that he can check up on it, as they have lots of work undertaken at weekends.
SF highlighted that the purpose of this group is to make sure we are consistent on communications and so we can contact each other about issues. He asked could people please ensure that they send any issues to them directly rather than waiting until meetings to raise matters, so that they can investigate issues as quickly as possible.
JG asked whether SW were satisfied with their most recent river walk in Maryburn. SB responded yes and noted that no issues had come back from this, but because of the spill a few weeks ago a subsequent walk is taking place to make sure no rags have appeared. This will be done following every issue that arises with the Maryburn.
JG asked if there are plans for any new housing which would be connected to the Hardengreen CSO. SB noted that he didn’t know, but any housing developments have to ask Scottish Water if there is capacity and they would take this CSO into consideration if that were to happen. Edel Ryan noted that this would be covered by planning processes and she can ask the planners at Midlothian Council if there are any planning applications and feed that response back to the group.
Forth Rivers Trust - Iain Reid
There was a pollution incident on 18th December in South Esk connected with North Middleton Burn. This has been reported to SEPA. It was good habitat for lamprey and brown trout, but this pollution may have affected that. There is also an issue with the Ochre Burn, but they are having difficulties in identifying its owner. The burn enters the River Esk via a culvert. This is a new issue which they have identified. It concerns a manhole which is leaking sanitary products etc into burn, and Scottish Water regularly attend this to do clean ups. SB will look into the matters, and IR agreed to pass on further information to SW.
IR is doing work with Laura Goble to use the fish sites and invertebrate sampling data as an environmental education tool.
Coal Authority – Tom Mills
The Coal Authority have continued to monitor the mine water and samples are still being taken despite the Covid-19 restrictions. There are no significant changes. They are not convinced that the system has stabilised yet, but they believe that it is starting to and when this fully stabilises, they will get a good picture of the chemistry. Their planned flow validation work has been restricted by Covid-19.
In terms of the treatment scheme, they are mobilising a pilot plan in February. This plant will take a small amount of flow and they will do some tests to look at the chemical dosing rates and how best to treat the water. It should take around a month to give them the data they require, and from this they will be able to look at the design and cost of the treatment scheme.
Their target is to have the treatment process in place by the Summer of 2022 and they are currently on target for that. There is a risk which comes from central government funding through BEIS funding settlements, and if there are cuts they may need to revisit decisions on this project, and cuts may also affect timescales, but as it stands currently this is a high priority scheme.
CB asks given that there is not yet a stabilised situation, will this impact on the modelling for the treatment scheme. TM notes that they are making this decision and balancing the risk with continued water course. He notes that they are comfortable in starting the design stage, as it is much more stable than the incident last year. They are trying to balance the want to progress the project, the risk and the impact on the water course.
IR enquired as to what the timescale of the project is. TM responded that the pilot scheme will be launched in February and they will be able to give some feedback on how that goes at the next meeting. This pilot will only need to be in place for about a month and as it is short term it won’t have any benefit to watercourse. They hope to have the full plant in place for Spring 2022. There are still planning processes to run through, but they have a designer and contractor engaged who will run the pilot and create the plant scheme from this. The current manganese levels are stable at 4.4mg/litre. There are ongoing discussions with SEPA regarding the treatment targets and they hope to have further meetings with them regarding details of water quality and treatment impacts.
SEPA could not make any representation at this point in the meeting, as they have been subject to a widespread cyber-attack and as such have been unable to attend.
East Lothian Council – Shona Grant
A briefing note was sent round the group regarding the Fisherrow Bathing Water prior to the meeting. After having monitored the water over the bathing season in 2020 there was no improvement in the water quality recorded and as a result there was no re-designation for the bathing water. The water will continue to be monitored in 2021. Work has been undertaken to improve the sewage network and to address misconnections in the sewage system. SG to send the briefing note to LC for distribution (actioned 18th January).
SB adds that in relation to the Eastfield Pumping Station, over a year ago not all the pumps were working, but they are now all fully operational. A project is being considered to upsize the pipe work. They would like to have this done prior to bathing season, and though this will be difficult it is their aim.
PC comments that she found the briefing note quite vague on what will happen next so appreciates this further information. PC further adds that sanitary products were still being found at the beach clean in January. SB notes that it would be useful for this information to be passed on to Scottish Water so that they can investigate this.
Midlothian Council – Edel Ryan
ER notes that she is very much looking forward to representing Midlothian Council at ERIG. The rangers service has erected signs and fencing near the Roslin Weir regarding the dangerous water there. They became aware of unauthorised discharge on the river and this has been referred to SEPA. IR asks for the location of this unauthorised discharged to see if this is something which they are already aware of at Forth Rivers Trust. ER will send grid reference on to IR.
ASK notes that there is ongoing concern about the weir at Lothian Bridge noted in last minutes and asks if there is an update as to whether it was found to be a natural boundary or manmade. IR responds that it would be SEPA who would answer that. ASK has noted that local community believe that this is manmade structure.
RC asks whether SEPA can supply copy of catchment management plan? LC to action
JG reported on an action she took from the November meeting to find out any further information from the community about the nature of the 6-metre high dam and whether it is man-made or not following discussions at the previous meeting about barrier removal. The group then began to have a discussion relating to plans to use hydroelectric at this site, though there is no official planning in place. ASK responds that Midlothian Council did a consultation with community about generating power in the community and this was one of the suggestions looked at in detail, but it hasn’t formally gone any further. ER will ask whether there is anything further being done on this and will feedback next meeting.
IR notes that these sorts of plans would have to be licensed by SEPA and go through this application process with them. Fish passage would have to be considered in this, and it would likely be costly. We need to ensure transparency with this, and the matter needs to be discussed directly with owner. IR has asked JG to enquire with the owner if they would be happy for their details to be shared with him. CB has asked if these details can also be shared with the group. JG will look into this.
LC notes that the next meeting will be on Monday 15th March. LC also highlights that the ERIG minutes are on Colin’s website at http://www.colinbeattiemsp.org/esk-river-improvement-group as per request of some of the local groups.
Meeting closed at 11.09.
In Attendance – Colin Beattie MSP, Louise Cameron, Peter Finnie, Paul Butler, Nathan Critchlow-Watton, Ann Stewart-Kmicha, Anne Hyatt, Helen Blackburn, Iain Reid, Jonathan Louis, Joy Godfrey, Laura Goble, Pauline Crerar, Philip Duncan, Roger Crofts, Scott Fraser, Shona Grant, Steven Boon, Tom Mills, Vicki White, Steven Dalgleish
Apologies – Jeff Stevenson, Bill Farnsworth
Colin Beattie (CB) welcomes group and opens meeting. The minutes from the previous meeting were approved.
Presentation by Nathan Critchlow-Watton (NCW), Senior Manager, Water and Land Unit, SEPA – Fish Barriers
SEPA are in the process of removing barriers which meet the relevant conditions and would improve the quality of the Esk River for fish. This presentation seeks to highlight some of the key barriers causing issues. The removal of these barriers is often contingent on many factors, for example planning permission. SEPA aim to find these barriers and to remove them where it is appropriate to do so. So far, they have removed 30 barriers along the Esk. Many weirs will simply collapse over time. Before undertaking work on the structure, it is important the structure is properly understood. In 2021, they will undertake a structural survey of the weirs. There will be an assessment of a weir at Lothian Bridge, which is 6 meters high, and SEPA will undertake a cost benefit analysis. Removing this weir would only open up approximately 3km of river, and there are still questions about how much habitat that will open up.
Ann Stewart-Kmicha (ASK) comments that a survey was carried out a few years ago linked to weirs, and wondered what happened with this. NCW notes that this did happen but there were funding issues. Work has been done previously and they still need to decide what to do with this.
CB asked for the timescale. NCW responds that the first step is the assessment in 2021 and looking at whether there is a natural barrier under Lothian Bridge weir, and what can be done in relation to that. The next steps are contingent on this step, so the timescale is currently difficult to work out. They will have to work through a staged process. If there is a natural waterfall under Lothian bridge, removing this wouldn’t be a step which could be taken.
ASK voices concerns over the Dalkeith weir, and that any work undertaken on the weir may have an effect on the effluent coming from Junkie’s Adit. NCW reiterates that the next step is to survey and then there will be more information on what is happening upstream.
Jonathon Louise (JL) comments that lots of surveys have been done previously. He believes that SEPA had a target to complete and remove the barriers on the Esk by the end of 2021, and he had read that they were on track to achieve this target, and queries whether this is still the case. NCW responds that they set 2021 as the objective, but they can’t remove the weirs by 2021, though this was the official objective set by Scottish Government Ministers. After the survey, they will have a better understanding of the matter, then 2027 is the next phase. There is a dedicated fund of £3 million per year, and it is estimated Lothian Bridge would cost £700,000 to remove.
JL continues that previous studies carried out a full assessment of the habitat. He notes that at Lothian Bridge there were historical salmon fishing rights, which means that salmon inhabited this area previously, and perhaps a waterfall could have been modified for barrier. NCW notes that this information would be helpful to have. JL emphasises that river barriers and Junkies Adit discharge is compounding the need to get access to every part of this habitat.
CB asks when is the end date for the next phase? NCW responds that it normally takes about 5 years to remove, as it will include significant engineering projects with challenges. CB notes it would be useful for NCW to send something to highlight the stages to the group.
Steven Dalgleish (SD) asks whether there is a way we can open more salmon spawning ground in the North Esk. NCW responds that this is easier in the North Esk and there is more scope to do something about the issues there timeously, but they need to understand longevity of projects before committing money, as if it is likely to collapse then investment isn’t worthwhile. SD furthers, if the weirs collapse naturally and were to release dirty sediment downstream, would you consider removing the weirs before this happens? NCW responds that part of the process is that they undertake investigations to look for contamination. JL notes that often the build up is not of toxic chemicals or damaging sediment, as there is a natural clearing process in high spates which allow gravel to get over. SEPA studies involve chemical analysis of sediment.
CB notes that he welcomes the information from NCW on each of the next stages and proposed funding.
Presentation by Iain Reid (IR), Forth Rivers Trust, on Electrofishing Data
In the last meeting Forth Rivers presented their survey work which focused on Junkie’s Adit. They carried out surveys, took data and plotted this on maps and to allow them to examine the effects. IR notes that in this presentation we will look at standardised fish data per unit area. They have surveyed 20 sites from Musselburgh – in the North Esk they have surveyed up to Carlops and in the South Esk Gorebridge and Temple.
There are lots of Bullhead (an invasive fish species) which contributes to high total fish densities. There is generally higher total fish density in the South Esk, but a reduction in the lower section of the river possibly due to the Adit discharge. When bullhead are removed from the picture, and only ‘sensitive’ species (such as trout, eels, lamprey and salmon) are left, the Esk system is dominated by brown trout, with highest densities found in upper catchment on both rivers. The presence of migratory fish such as salmon and eel is confined to the lower catchment, being limited by the presence of impassable or sparingly passable weirs. The Inveresk Weir is partially passable as it has ladder, but occasional blockages. Salmon is missing entirely from South Esk because of fouling. Eels can migrate over wetted land, so there is some fish passage as some structures are in a state of decay.
The slide shows the salmon and trout densities of the Esk and then projects to the same densities as found in the river Teith - a healthy river - to show what the fish density should look like. There is brown trout throughout the catchment. The Montague Weir is impassable to salmon, and almost impassable to eels. The Dalkeith Weir is impassable to salmon, but partly passable to eels. There is a dramatic decrease (6 to 10 fold vs. the rest of the catchment) in the fish density in the three sites South of Junkie’s Adit (SEsk7, SEsk6 and SEsk1) – it is clear the discharge is having a huge impact on the fish community, as well as the impact of pollution. There is a loss of habitat for lamprey, and though fish density is clinging on this is poor in comparison to other rivers.
CB states that IR mentions road run off in his presentation, and asks whether there is a lot of pollution coming from motor vehicles? IR responds that this can come from CSOs or drains from roads. He notes drainage systems could be considered, such as magic sponges or reeds. Where there is human population on the Esk, then fish population suffers. CB further asks how significant is the road run off in comparison with the pollution and minewater. IR says although this can’t be quantified, the main threats are the minewater and the pollution, rather than road run off. NWC adds it is very difficult to quantify road run off, but the best solutions are sustainable urban systems, like gullies.
Roger Crofts (RC) notes in removing weirs a major issue is how we slow the river down at peak flow and asks what is being thought through to slow the river down by bodies like SEPA. JL notes that weirs don’t slow water down, and that to slow it down you need a reservoir. He comments that weirs increase the flood risk upstream. NCW states that some of the complexity with removing structures is a flood risk, and they consider aspects such as the stability of banks. IR notes that flood modelling has been done in the past, and there is no extra flood risk associated with weir removal, which is outlined in the document he sent to the group. There are ways of doing natural flood management, such as leaky dams and weedy debris, to create flood defences and simultaneously create habitat. RC comments that a flood management plan from SEPA would be useful to see, to look at natural flood management options, and to consider areas of floor plains. CB notes that East Lothian Council will likely be looking at mitigating flooding of the Esk within the flood protection scheme. RC states it would be useful for Musselburgh residents to have more information on projects happening in relation to flood prevention. CB comments he would also like clarification and update on this matter from East Lothian Council.
JL comments that the Musselburgh District Flood Protection Scheme were looking at reservoirs in the upper part of the river for use further downstream. During low water, if there is a pollution incident the water could be released. JL invites Scottish Water to collaborate on this with them.
Report from the Coal Authority – Tom Mills (TM), Head of the Environment Department
TM notes the Coal Authority continue to monitor the water quality and flows of the Esk. Over last few weeks there has been an increase in mine materials. When this stabilises, they need to assess what the long-term future discharge will be and what iron levels they will be treating.
The Coal Authority have secured the possession and purchase of the land adjacent to Junkies Adit. They will be undertaking surveys and ground investigation after Christmas and also creating a small-scale treatment trial on site, so that they can design the best solution for treatment.
The Coal Authority have been doing further work which shows that the area for long term passive scheme would be larger than previously thought, due to the complexities of the manganese removal. It seems that the size requirement means that a passive scheme will not be feasible and that it is likely the scheme will need to be active. The Coal Authority will hold further discussions with SEPA about treatment targets.
TM notes that any solution is looking more expensive than originally budgeted for – it was anticipated the temporary scheme would be £1-1.5 million but the cost is approximately 4/5 times higher, which means the two-stage approach is not feasible. The focus is now on accelerating putting the permanent solution in place. Early indications estimate the cost to be £20-25 million over 25 years for the clean-up, which would be 10% of all their operational costs across the UK. They are now not in a position to have a temporary scheme by next Summer as intended, but it’s likely a long-term solution will be in place by the following Summer (2022). An active scheme will be cheaper over the 25 years, and active scheme is likely to be easier and quicker to develop.
ASK notes that iron ore has always been present in the River, but the manganese is causing more concern. Are there quantitative figures on the levels of manganese present? TM responds the iron is around 40mg/per litre. Minewater flows vary due to seasons and rainfall, but typically sit at 85 litres/second coming out the Adit. The Manganese concentration is steady at 4mg/litre. With an active treatment there is more control and you can hit a definite treatment quality – this is more difficult with passive, especially with manganese. We need to consider whether there will be a bigger benefit on the river when the cost is so high and think about whether this will improve the fish migration too.
Paul Butler (PB) in relation to reservoir releases, SEPA have been working with Scottish Water and there are difficulties, but are considering whether this is a possibility, particularly if there are dry periods next year. River flows are much higher now and the discoloration has greatly reduced. The Coal Authority and SEPA are meeting next week to discuss minewater treatment options, and SEPA are glad to see the Coal Authority pushing to get the permanent solution in place.
Report from Scottish Water – Scott Fraser (SF) / Steven Boon (SB)
SB notes the in relation to the Lord Ancrum Wood they now have an event monitor tied to an intelligent system – this alarms them of spills and allows them to undertake a clean-up urgently when they occur, but they also do regular checks. At the Ben Bught Burn there was a historical incident with sanitary products and wipes – a thorough clean-up was undertaken, and soil was investigated. This work is now complete and no fresh items have been found, though they will continue to monitor. At the Hardengreen / Bonnyrigg CSO opposite the Sun Inn there are continued regular checks and cleaning, but no prolonged issues. This was checked this morning, following heavy rain over weekend and it shows that the water did raise to weir level but only for a few minutes, so operating as it should be. Modelling shows that no changes could be made which wouldn’t have an impact on flooding, so they will continue to regularly monitor and clean up. The East Field Water Pumping Station has had some historical issues but over last 6 months intelligent alarms have been installed so the situation can be well managed.
SB notes a continued commitment to the 3P’s campaign, which informs the public what they should not flush. CB asks whether there is a measurable impact of these campaigns. SB states that there have been no spills at the Lord Ancrum Wood since their work in this area. The fact we haven’t seen spills points that the raised weir level has helped, but also that people aren’t flushing same things that they used to. SF notes that the next steps will be to focus on the Bonnyrigg area. They look at the number of sewer chokes to understand if it has been making a difference. There was a reduction of 10% when they ran the campaign a few years ago but this has plateaued, and now they are considering how to make a significant impact again, as many materials are still passing through which shouldn’t be.
JG asks when the last river walk of the Mary Burn was, and what assistance could be given by the community in terms of educating others what not to flush? SB couldn’t confirm the last date, but there was one happening that week, and notes these walks happen regularly. In terms of help from the community, continue spreading the message of what not to flush, and make people aware that these can get into the water systems. The community can also help by identifying pollution incidents which Scottish Water have not yet noticed, so that they can undertake an urgent clean up.
JL commented it sounded as if Scottish Water are aiming to get sensor on each culvert, is that the case and is there a plan for when that will be in place by?
JG notes that Owen Thompson is asking question in Westminster today about sewage, and about the labelling of products as flushable.
SB replies that Scottish Water are not funded for monitors on all CSOs, but have built Smart Networks within their business plan. This is not just to monitor discharge but to monitor where flows are starting to creep up so that they can act more proactively. This is currently being trialled in places across Scotland, and they are trying to put funding in place between 2021-27.
SF notes that regarding reservoirs, Scottish Water are doing upgrades at Gladhouse Reservoir at the start of the South Esk, and I would be happy to discuss flows into the Esk with the Reservoir team.
Report from SEPA – Vicki White (VW)
VW notes that regarding the Bonnyrigg CSO, it is designed to be an intermittent discharge. There will be a focus in 2021 on looking at ecological conditions, and there is sampling planned to evaluate this. VW will be happy to present the results to the group. VW reiterates that any concerns about pollution should be reported to SEPA at earliest opportunity to allow them to identify and resolve issues. Regarding the bathing water at Fisherrow, there is information coming out soon and when this becomes available VW will share this with the group.
JG asks whether SEPA do the same studies along the Esk that they do to assess bathing water? VW notes this is only done at bathing water sites. They do a range of monitoring, but she is unaware if this is microbial. They are likely to be able to give more insights next year.
JG asks if SEPA are going to set a trigger level for riverfly monitoring, and how soon will the group get this information. Will it be at the baseline of what the river is capable of? VW responds that the river-based management planning process identifies the levels of impact and input into the river, and she will need to look at this in more detail and get back to the group.
Pauline Crerar (PC) notes that at the bathing water quality meetings, it is clear that Seafield has more impact on the bathing water than Esk. VW confirms that there is insufficient evidence that upstream inputs of the Esk are having an impact on bathing water, and they are working to identify the sites of pollution.
SD asks can SEPA investigate the source of discolouration of the Esk. VW responds that some of the work on ecology and river sampling next year will approach this. ERIG is the first step in being able to identify the problems and investigate these. VW will also look at the gaps in monitoring and come back to ERIG on this. IR reiterates that monitoring is complicated, and you have to look from the source to the sea, but Forth Rivers Trust are doing thorough monitoring.
Report from East Lothian Council - Shona Grant (SG)
SG agrees with Pauline Crerar that in bathing water meetings there is no indication that the Esk is having impact in Fisherrow bathing water. Fisherrow is now classed as a former bathing water, and the council are working with the Scottish Government and SEPA to clarify the wording of the signage related to bathing water
PC notes there are many trees in Esk in Musselburgh, and asks do council deal with that? SG responds she is unsure, but she can ask her colleagues if they would deal with this.
There was a general discussion about that many in the group were disappointed that there is not enough signage to indicate that people should not use the water for bathing, and that the SEPA electronic sign is blank in the winter months.
ASK is disappointed that Midlothian Council have not been involved. Louise Cameron (LC) notes that they have been invited, but she will add this to Colin’s agenda to discuss with the CEO.
Laura Goble (LG) provides an update on riverfly surveying, as she believes they are the only group doing monthly monitoring on invertebrate on the Esk. She has been in touch with IR about setting up new riverfly survey sites. There is lots of interest from local groups about being involved in survey scheme. Need to have the community on board and that will help with the 3P’s campaign. The new volunteers are waiting for training, but this is delayed by Covid-19. They are still waiting on trigger levels from SEPA. There are talks of expanding the scheme and setting it up as a constituted group and this will help with insuring members. LC passed on funding information to support the group. If anyone has any further funding advice on becoming a constituted group that would be useful.
CB states that the community efforts need to fit into the picture and not to be done in isolation. The community need to be involved in creating arguments to move projects forward. We should think about how SEPA and SW can link up with local groups.
JG states that ENCC have put in an expression of interest for a grant funder about a river related project. It would be possible to design this in relation with other local community groups and could help to fund training and equipment. IR also notes that the riverfly group should have further discussion with Forth Rivers Trust as there are areas overlapping with their work. PC states it would be good to have sites at Musselburgh and to get samples further down the river. SD notes he would be happy to get volunteers from MDAA to help with this project.
CB states the different bodies represented in ERIG need to consider how they can link up with the other bodies and we would welcome feedback on how practical that is. Significant first steps have been made in these first meetings to make progress on the matter of cleaning the river.
CB thanks the members for attending and closes meeting at 12.24
In attendance – Colin Beattie (MSP), Louise Cameron (Office of Colin Beattie), Jim Mcleod (Office of Colin Beattie), Anne Hyatt (Roslin and Bilston Community Council), Bill Farnsworth (Musselburgh Racecourse), Tom Mills (Coal Authority), Pauline Crerar (Fisherrow Harbour Group), Vicki White (SEPA), Peter Finnie (SEPA), Paul Butler (SEPA), Joy Godfrey (Eskbank and Newbattle Community Council), Jonathan Louis (Forth District Salmon Fishery Board), Jeff Stevenson (Danderhall and District Community Council), Iain Reid (Forth Rivers Trust), David Temple (Loanhead and District Community Council), Laura Goble (Newbattle Abbey College), Scott Fraser (Scottish Water), Steven Boon (Scottish Water), Lynn Crothers (East Lothian Council), Iain Clark (Musselburgh Area Partnership), Richard Othieno (NHS Public Health), Ann Stewart-Kmicha (Dalkeith and District Community Council).
Apologies - Shona Grant (East Lothian Council), Neil Clark (East Lothian Council), Lilianne Lauder (Midlothian Council), Helen Blackburn (Rosewell & District Community Council)
Meeting opened at 10am.
Agenda 1 – Creation of the Esk River Improvement Group (ERIG)
Colin Beattie (CB) welcomes members of the group to the inaugural meeting of the Esk River Improvement Group (ERIG) and outlines the stakeholders in attendance. CB highlights that this is not a substitute for SEPA, Scottish Water or any other organisations and that complaints should still take the official routes, where constituents should report issues directly to SEPA or Scottish Water. There have been ongoing issues with mining minerals flowing into the River, poor water quality at Fisherrow Harbour, and also sanitary towels, wet wipes and other sewage. This group will bring stakeholders together to look at the whole health of the Esk River.
Decision on Membership
CB also noted that he has not added parliamentary members as there are so many representing the area, and he believes that it would be beneficial to avoid having too many members in the meetings. The membership agreed with this decision.
CB noted that he believed any group that has contact with the river has an interest. There are obvious groups, such as Community Councils and Angling Clubs but he would be happy for others to come on board. Joy Godfrey reports that the Esk Valley Trust would like to join. Richard Othieno suggests that Marine Scotland could be an important organisation to add.
Decision on purpose and expected outcome of ERIG
The group discussed the purpose statement which is as follows:
‘To create a single forum which brings together stakeholders with an interest in the Esk River, and for whom the river is important, whether commercial or leisure or ecological or regulatory. To investigate how we can further improvements and advancements in the quality of water, in order to provide a high-quality environment for the river users and wildlife associate with the Esk.
To provide an authoritative and clear voice in respect to proposed measures to achieve the primary aim described above.
To disseminate reliable information on progress towards key goals and objectives and to provide ongoing comment for public interest.’
No comments were made to request changes to this statement. Scott Fraser commented that he believed this was a good guide to the purpose of the group.
CB noted that we are looking for a clean river and it is a question of how we get there that this group needs to investigate.
Decisions on meetings and their conduct
The group agreed to have virtual meetings for the foreseeable future due to the Covid-19 restrictions. The group discussed the frequency of meetings and agreed that every 3-4 months is reasonable, unless something dictates that an urgent meeting is necessary.
Decision on communication
Colin asked whether everyone would be happy for their details to be circulated internally within the group. No member noted that they did not want to have their contact details shared with other members.
Colin also suggested making a general newsletter to inform the public, and it was agreed that the group issue minutes, updates and newsletters to those who expressed an interest in joining a mailing list. Peter Finnie noted that pollution events should still be reported on the SEPA website (https://www2.sepa.org.uk/EnvironmentalEvents ) as soon as possible so that they may react, rather than these being reported to the group.
Social Media should also be kept up to date with the current knowledge of what the group is doing and to inform the public of accurate information around what is happening with the Esk.
Decision on format of meetings
A discussion was had around which stakeholders should present at meetings, and it was noted that Scottish Water, SEPA, the Coal Authority, Mid and East Lothian Councils, and Forth Rivers Trust would report, and then any other members who would like to speak would be given the opportunity to. It was noted that not only should reports be given, but solutions should also be sought.
Decision on frequency of meetings
CB proposed quarterly meetings, and to get the dates out for the next year following this meeting.
Decision to circulate members contacts
Sharing contacts between ERIG members to keep everyone in touch was agreed.
Agenda 1 closed at 10.19 and Agenda 2 commenced immediately afterwards.
Agenda 2 - Official Meeting
Surveys were carried out in 2020 on invertebrate and fish with regards to increasing discharge from Junkie’s Adit. Samples were taken for 3 consecutive weeks and the organisation are also undertaking monthly monitoring and electrofishing surveys to see how much of an affect the discharge is having and how far along the river this effect is. The group have a collection of data from the North and South Esk, ranging from 2011-2020 and this allows them to see how the fish community is changing over time. There are significant differences downstream from Junkie’s Adit, proving the coal discharge is having a huge affect on the environment of the river, affecting a distance of at least 1.3km down from the Adit. Species density is much better in North Esk, and there is reduced density and species richness in South Esk below the Adit. Historically, the South Esk had high densities of salmon, and this has dropped to 0 in 2020. Salmon are still present in the North, but are now extinct from the South Esk.
It is clear that the Adit discharge is having a negative effect on fish and the invertebrate community. Where salmon were previously the dominant fish species in the South Esk, they are now absent from the 2020 survey. This could be because their spawning habitat is saturated, because the weirs are physical barrier and because of organic pollution. A short-term solution in the North could be to open up spawning sites to help mitigate losses. It is noted that the South River has a high potential for recovery.
CB asks whether their surveys have focused on other parts of the river, or just the worst parts.
IR notes that he has done South up to Temple and North to Penicuik Estate, meaning that he has surveyed nearly all of the River in Midlothian and East Lothian. Around Newbattle Abbey had highest density of trout. He notes that he is confident that there is a real effect from the Adit discharge.
CB notes that clearly this must be rectified as soon as possible.
East Lothian Council - Lynn Crothers
Lynn is responsible for Environmental Health, amongst other teams, at East Lothian Council and her team have an interest in improving the bathing water quality at Fisherrow Sands and are also informed on the mine discharge. ELC have been a key member in making decisions with the Coal Board about what actions to take and have also been involved with other stakeholders. ELC are interested from public health point of view and work with NHS Lothian Public Health. They have been working to decide what messages they should send in terms of people accessing the water, but also have an interest in the ecology of the river.
NHS Lothian Public Health - Richard Othieno
Richard is the Chair of the Incident Management Team on behalf of NHS Public Health and managed the risk assessment of the mining discharge, and he has also composed a response on the manganese.
CB asks whether it is safe for people to swim in the river and to eat the fish.
RO has noted so far that they have no indication that anyone’s health is being affected, and no toxic effects have been experienced from the water. He assesses that there is no immediate risk to people. The minerals coming from the mining discharge are natural radiation is not a concern. In the river samples there are no organisms which would present a risk. Despite this, it does not mean that they would encourage people to go into the river and signage is being considered by MLC and ELC. The two chemicals of concern are the high concentrations of iron and manganese. Iron does not have direct health effect, and even if it is in drinking water, the concentration needs to very high to have health impact. In their risk assessment it does not pose as a serious health concern. Based on information available, the manganese levels are normal, higher levels than what are present in the river samples are found in bread and bran. Manganese is also not a mineral which needs to be controlled under the EU standards for water. It is also unlikely that the levels would be high enough to affect fish in a way which would impact people’s health. RO’s assessment is that there is no impact on human health.
CB notes that he met with Cabinet Secretary, Roseanna Cunningham, last week, in order to keep her up to speed with the condition of the river and she is very supportive of ERIG.
NHS Lothian are also happy about the group and would like to provide contribution as appropriate.
CB notifies the group that unfortunately the Midlothian Council representative could not be present at the meeting, and therefore a report would not be given on behalf of MLC.
Scottish Water – Scott Fraser (SF)
Scott’s role focuses on engagement and he welcomes the creation of ERIG, which will link him to new channels to share information with. SF’s role involves explaining issues to customers and the public. Scottish Water recently ran a campaign on items which get inappropriately flushed, and they create accessible information to improve water networks.
Steven Boon (SB) goes on to provide an overview of the work which Scottish Water has been undertaking in relation to the River Esk.
With the Maryburn and Lord Ancrum Wood there were significant spills from Combined Sewer Overflows (CSO), which led into the Esk. Scottish Water undertook a significant number of clean ups, and also changed the levels of weirs to reduce spills into the burn. This week there was a spill as a result of heavy rainfall, and this was cleaned and then checked for blockages. River walkers are also going to investigate the CSO down to Esk to ensure there is not a wider impact. Scottish Water are looking at a bigger resolution and they have options on the table which would cost approx. ½ million, with a meeting scheduled this month to decide if they want to take anything forward.
At the Hardengreen CSO there have been several spillages, with the last on the 26th of June. When there is a spill the sewer response team will check on this. Scottish Water have also put in place intelligent alarms, which means that if the levels go above the weir then they are immediately informed and it is put on a priority, and will be urgently remedied, whether day or night. Scottish Water are also looking at what they can do differently at this CSO to minimise spills but are being careful to avoid flooding further downstream. They have a model which is almost ready to go. There is a fortnightly check of the CSO and it is also washed.
Laura Goble noted that she would like to be informed of developments with Lord Ancrum’s Wood.
An issue was reported at the Benbught Burn, with historical rags and sewage related debris. This site was attended with contractor to organise a clean-up, and this week they are back there to ensure this clean up is to the standard they expect. There were also several reports of the Esk looking white, and in this case, it seemed that paint was discharged, and samples have been taken to clarify that this is what was. When the site was visited the water was running clear. If anything is poured down road drains this can make its way to the river.
CB noted that he receives continuous complaints about pollution, and also the smell of the Esk. These complaints often relate to sanitary towels, wipes etc. SW have already made efforts through a campaign to encourage people not to flush products.
SB stated that reality is that if people are flushing products which should not be flushed then it will cause issues, and this is why CSO’s exist, as they stop these going into the network. If there are issues, then Scottish Water need to be able to find these and resolve them. Discharges from CSO’s should be an exception and not the norm, and they have considered upsizing and screening of CSO’s.
It was suggested that perhaps schools would be a good place to get this message across. SF notes that Scottish Water have provided 6 sessions in primary schools and these were well received, and that the children went home with postcards to parents. SF also clarified that there was previously a television advert campaign on this matter and following this there was a reduction in the number of blockages reported. SF expressed that he was keen to use this group to see how we can foster this message out to the community.
Joy Godfrey commented that Midlothian Youth Platform could be a good organisation to welcome a representative from. She noted that they have been running a campaign around binning plastic and they may be interested in reducing plastic pollution to the river, as well as having excellent connections to young people in Midlothian to disseminate information. CB notes we could invite them to a meeting to participate as guests.
Pauline Crerar suggests that we could link this issue with period poverty schemes. Lynn Crothers notes that this is a good point, and that there are lot of reusable products on the market which we could raise awareness of, which save money and protect the environment.
SB reiterates that Scottish water are happy for people to get in touch with them, so that they can fix and clean issues, and that they would like to encourage people to get in touch with them directly. Scottish Water are also looking at putting smart technology into the network (e.g. cameras) but note that they have many CSO’s so need to target those which cause issues most frequently.
SEPA – Vicki White
VW notes that SEPA is delighted at the proposal of this group, and she is delighted to be involved. SEPA are committed to working with this forum
The key areas for improvement on the Esk are the issues of sewage discharges and CSO’s, bathing water and the mining discharge.
On the issue of bathing water, VW notes that the water Fisherrow was classified as poor at the end of 2019. The water frequently met the standards, but some results were affected by samples taken following heavy rainfall and thus affected by sewage. It was de-designated of its bathing water status. She notes that in the 24-48 hours after heavy rainfall, water quality can be affected, and this can be from dog and gull fouling. There is an improvement plan in place to improve water at Fisherrow and she is optimistic that this can rectified. Seasonal bathing water monitoring is still taking place, but these results can’t be shared online as the water has been de-designated as bathing water, but she can share these with the group.
SEPA regulates over 3000 CSO’s in Scotland and work closely with Scottish Water to get improvements where needed, often undertaking co-op visits together. They have a list of the highest priority CSO’s and also work with Environmental Quality and Ecology teams to identify water quality issues.
SEPA - Paul Butler (PB) (presentation)
Old Fordell (also known as Junkie’s Adit) is a mine drainage tunnel, which was constructed to allow shallow water to flow, with the water localised until recently. When coalmining takes places ground water is pumped down and metals are exposed. When mining finishes, the pumping stops, and groundwater levels recover. In this example it has taken about 30 years for this recovery. Metals are dissolved into the water, in this case iron and manganese, and then the mine water reaches the surface at the lowest overflow point. Old Fordell is not the only place this could have happened, and it could come out in more than one location but currently it is just at Old Fordell. There is a lot of uncertainty in mine water overflow predictions – the timing, location, volume, chemistry are all hard to predict, making early intervention difficult. SEPA are working in conjunction with the Coal Authority. PB also notes that mine water in Scotland is generally not acidic, and in this case the PH is between 6 and 7. There is also a map of coal workings on Coal Authority’s interactive web viewer, which may be of interest.
The mine water from deeper sources tends to be a poorer quality. In this case there is 7 km between the mine water discharge and the former Bilston Glen colliery. A monitoring plan is in place between SEPA and the Coal Authority, and continuous data is being taken to measure water quality, ecology, flow monitoring, visual impact and sonde. They have also set trigger levels to protect the most sensitive species in the river, and to monitor the visual impact, chemical levels, and impact on ecology.
PB notes that receiving information through community reports is really important to SEPA, as it helps them to resolve issues more urgently.
They were getting 50 litres per second through the tunnel, and this is now up to 100 litres per second, which signals this is now coming from the deeper mine workings. The first recordings of an increase in dissolved iron and manganese in the river was in April 2020.
This is also affected by the fact that we have had the 3rd driest April on record, and there is a lot less dilution in river which means the impact was worse.
VW encourages people to get in touch with SEPA regarding any concerns about pollution and notes it is best to do this via their website (https://www2.sepa.org.uk/EnvironmentalEvents). It is important that issues are reported directly to SEPA and Scottish Water, so there is no delay in them receiving this information.
VW also notes that CSO’s are designed to discharge during heavy rainfall, but this should be just rainwater. It is more concerning when this happens during dry weather. VW is keen to be involved in any campaigns preventing unnecessary materials going into the river.
PB has said that they are happy to provide exact locations regarding any of the information in the presentation.
The Coal Authority – Tom Mills
The Coal Authority is funded to undertake mine water treatment work and monitoring. The organisation was formed in 1994, and they have created 74 mine water treatment schemes made in this time, but the situation at Bilston Glen is very complex. In treating mine water, they have a choice between active and passive treatment solutions. Active is more costly and not sustainable but it provides a controlled method of treatment. This is used when the chemistry of mine water is particularly poor. A passive treatment is preferred, which is usually where they pump water to treatment site and then use natural methods, such as reed beds.
At Bilston Glen they will take a two-phase approach. Initially, they will put in an active scheme, at the site immediately adjacent to Junkies Adit. They are not sure how long this will stay in place, and hopefully this will be changed to passive treatment over time. The active treatment will be in the region of £4 million, and then £300,000 -500,000 to run yearly. In the long term they hope to turn this into a passive scheme, but ideally for this there would be a large area of land around discharge point and in this location there is not. They are working to look at landowners, in order to find a suitable place. Manganese is very hard to remove through passive treatment schemes, and it will be a challenge in the future to do this through a passive scheme.
The Coal Authority is working closely with SEPA and Midlothian Council in relation to planning aspects to ensure no unknown requirements. The proposed site for the active treatment is close to potential properties, and minimising noise and visual impact are going to be taken into consideration. They have engaged with residents to make them aware but have not a great deal of response. It was noted that they would normally have public events, but Covid-19 has restricted this. They will keep residents informed and take concerns into consideration.
The next steps are clearing the land purchase and progressing with the design. They need to undertake ground investigations, ecological surveys, arrange power supply for site, and investigate waste disposal. They are in ongoing planning discussions with Midlothian.
They hope to have something in place by the end of the financial year, and for this to be active by next Summer. River flow has a major effect in terms of dilution, and this will improve over the Winter when there is a better flow.
This temporary solution will treat manganese, and then 3-5 years down the line they will look into a passive treatment. The Coal Authority are looking at how to balance out the carbon usage of active plant with the improvement of the water quality. With the passive site there will be less carbon usage, but this will not produce such good water quality. An active plant may have to become a permanent solution in order to get the necessary water quality.
Pauline Crerar asked how large the passive area needs to be. TM responded that this should be around 10 acres but in this case, it could be bigger as a result of the manganese treatment.
Iain Reid asks, given that delivery will take until next year, are there any short-term plans to mitigate loss of fish spawning habitat in the short term? TM responds to say that there is nothing they can put in place as a quick fix. The water quality will improve when we get higher level of flows, but he doesn’t know if that would be enough to protect fish spawning.
Paul Butler noted that SEPA has looked at the potential for extra releases of water from reservoirs and are considering that with Scottish Water, and they will report back to group when this assessment has been finalised.
Laura Goble introduced herself as a Ranger at Newbattle Abbey College who has been undertaking sampling. Newbattle Abbey College spoke of the desire to undertake the Salmon and Trout Conservation Trust ‘Smart Rivers’ programme, the need to source funding for this and the fact that there are volunteers waiting to undertake riverfly monitoring training and citizen science. She has been working with the community to survey river fly and has been working to educate locals on the species in river. She is looking to expand scheme and get more of the community involved. She notes that people feel a bit helpless but educating them on river fly and pollution events has been useful. The group currently have 3 survey sites and are looking to expand this, and they hope to work with Forth Rivers Trust to enable this. LG confirmed that SEPA had indicated it would provide riverfly trigger levels soon.
Joy Godfrey noted that in the Eskbank and Newbattle Community Council area community members have been running a river fly monitoring project for seven months, supported by Newbattle Abbey College, and the group, ‘Riverfly on the Esk’, would like to expand to monitor further sites on the Esk. Louise Cameron has sent list of possible funders on behalf of Colin Beattie’s office. They have 10 people waiting to get trained and she thinks it is special that people in the community are keen to be involved. She would also be keen to organise a ‘CSO Safari’, where people can walk down river to check the CSOs against those that had been mapped and check they are all working. She believes it is important that we develop community education materials. It is difficult during social distancing, but she would be happy to write up a previous community event teaching people what not to flush so it could be replicated at low cost in future.
Jonathon Louis noted that the number of barriers to fish migration on the Esk and decline of salmon populations are due to a lack of habitat. It would be good to look at how these barriers will be eased as part of this group and the timescales associated with this.
Louise Cameron raised the point of Facebook Groups, noting that she is in the process of setting up a private one but that we should consider how we share information with the public. In the meantime, she will continue sharing information through the mailing list and will continue to do this, as some members are not on Facebook.
CB ends the meeting by noting that Louise Cameron will circulate the dates of future meetings. He thanks the members for a good first meeting and states that he appreciates the contributions from all the members.
[Meeting closed at 12.12]