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]