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.