Esk River Improvement Group Meeting Minutes – 10am, Monday 7th November 2022, Microsoft Teams
Attendance: Douglas Lyons, Colin Beattie MSP, Jenny Gray, Moira Cartwright (Midlothian Council), Shona Grant (East Lothian Council), Nick Aitken (East Lothian Council), Ann Stewart-Kmicha (Dalkeith & District Community Council), Anne Hyatt (Roslin and Bilston Community Council), Steven Boon (Scottish Water), Scott Fraser (Scottish Water), Claire Tochel (Fisherrow Harbour & Seafront Association), Pauline Crerar (Fisherrow Harbour & Seafront Association), Rachael Langfield (Coal Authority), Dr Mike Cox (Coal Authority), Ross Hughes (Forth Rivers Trust), Rebecca Lewis (Riverfly on the Esk/Buglife), David Ogilvie (SEPA), Chris Gall (SEPA), Peter Finnie (SEPA), Paul Butler (SEPA), John Oldham (Esk Valley Trust), Joy Godfrey (ENCC), Conor Price (Musselburgh Flood Protection Scheme), Rachel Warrington (Musselburgh Flood Protection Scheme), Philip Duncan (Musselburgh Racecourse), Caroline Freeman (Newbattle Abbey College) Rachel Elliott (Nature Scotland)
Apologies: Audrey Murray (EnjoyLeisure), Craig Macadam (Buglife), Roger Crofts (Esk Valley Trust), Vicki White (SEPA), Katrina Wilson (SEPA), Anna Griffin (SEPA) Rob Mitchell (SEPA), Nim Kibbler (Forth Rivers Trust)
CB welcomes everyone to the meeting and the previous minutes were approved.
1. Scottish Water – Steven Boon and Scott Fraser
SB started with an update on the issues that were discussed at the last meeting.
Pittendreich Burn – SB provided details about an investigation into what is causing water discolouration in this area. Developers separate surface and wastewater, putting surface water through suds/detention/retention ponds. There are issues with dead vegetation in the ponds. The investigation will focus on if there are cross connections into the ponds and if any wastewater has mistakenly been connected into the surface water runoff. Commented that this will not be a quick process.
Eastfield Update - (addressing questions from Claire Tochel)
Commented that the asset is working as per design. Work has been done to upgrade the pumps and repairing the pipework. Final bit of work to check the pipework is planned in February 2023, (they need a cold dry period to undertake this work for storage purposes). After this, they plan to do another clean, to remove debris and rags. Determining on what they see in the works planned in the new year, Scottish Water plan to do a clean as a regular activity, either annual or 6 monthly. Once this work is done, this will be as good as they can make this pumping station.
Answering the question if this means the pumping station will be operating as per the licence? SB commented that he does not know. They can’t be clear where the figure of 947 litres per second (or 1100 litres per second in the emergency action plan) comes from. He does not think the pumping station will ever do that. Where they are at now is to understand the impact further upstream on the network and the environment with the current operating levels. And then the question between Scottish Water and SEPA is if this is acceptable and what work may be needed to hit a modelled number. If they need to upgrade Eastfield, that will be done after this work is completed. Any work upgrading Eastfield would be a very large project. Currently there are no issues with the rising mains at Eastfield.
CB asked if Scottish Water have had any issues with sediment/grit in the water at Eskbank?
SB is not aware of any grit in clean water. This should only happen if there is a leak. If this persists, advised that this should be called in.
ASK asked about the pdf of CSO’s that had been offered to be sent out at the previous meeting. (These will be circulated).
CT added that she appreciates hearing about the planned cleaning at Eastfield. Commented that we are getting to the heart of this, that many parts of the water cleaning infrastructure are in desperate need of upgrading. Which is an issue at Fisherrow.
CT wanted to make the point that this is a big issue and not one that we can ‘tick off’. Adding at what point do we need to do something else and when does this becomes a government issue, recognising the need for investment in our water quality.
CB commented that this is certainly something not to lose sight of and we will keep this as a sub-item on the agenda
RLe commented that one sampling site, near Penicuik, was on the trigger levels (a drop in invertebrate numbers). Asked if SB could get in touch if he had any information on this site. CG offered speak to RLe on this matter and put her in touch with the SEPA ecologists to look at what has happened on this section of the river.
2.Forth Rivers Trust – Ross Hughes
Have been running a series of public engagement presentations over last couple of months, with the final one coming up.
CB commented that he was interested to see that they are doing a survey of outfall pipes. Adding that this has been discussed before in ERIG that the group don’t have a comprehensive knowledge of where the outfall pipes are, which is a big gap the understanding in what is impacting the river. Asked when do they think the survey will be finished and how much of the river is the survey taking in?
RH explained that the survey will run until the 17th of December and they will take time after to collate the information. Previous surveys on the Leven and Almond will give you an understanding to what information will be available. They are looking at where the Esk enters the Forth up to Springfield Mill on the North Esk and a kilometre past Cockpen on the South Esk. Adding that it would be great to expand on this in the future.
3. Riverfly on the Esk/Buglife - Rebecca Lewis (RLe)
Update on Riverfly on the Esk, (A Citizen Science Project)
4. Coal Authority - Rachael Langfield (RL) and Dr Mike Cox (MC)
Apologies given about the lack of communication about the Board Meeting that happened in public on the 30th of September at the National Mining Museum. The next rotation for a public meeting of the Coal Authority Board in Scotland will be next summer.
RL provided an update on previously raised points
CB referred to a previous discussion about sending letters of support from the Community councils and himself on the basis of RL providing the necessary information.
RL I have this ready information to send after this meeting.
ASK Expressed frustration on the lack of communication.
ASK queried the Dalkeith Country Park and Bilston Glen references as these are confusing for the local community.
RL commented that projects can have internal names that don’t translate well into the real world. RL added she has been assured that the external communications do not reference Bilston Glen.
ASK referenced notice boards that say, ‘ring this number, mine gasses’. She phoned the numbers, and these are hazard lines that do reporting, and they gave two numbers for the Coal Board. These numbers rung out.
RL will ask some questions on this within the Coal Authority, but it has nothing to do with the Mine Water treatment scheme.
ASK queried if the cameras that have been put into the area are these detecting mine gasses?
RL Answered that they have had security issues on a building that they have purchased. Children had gained access to the building. The cameras are for security. The plan is to proceed with the demolition of this building,
Dr Mike Cox presented slides to the group on the project chemistry
CB states that the key thing is safety. Asking where is the trigger point for the safe level of manganese and iron in the water for humans, animals and creatures that live in the Esk?
MC adds that they use the EQS and work to meet these standards. He will send EQS numbers to RL to be circulated. The process will ensure the discharged water is compatible with the water in the river Esk.
CB asked, how they are going to dispose of the residue, which may be substantial?
MC Commented that it will be substantial; it will be a compact sludge that will be disposed of in several processes. They can use Okra in anaerobic digestors (units that produce compost) or they can dispose in Landfill.
CB commented that putting a large amount of a concentrated chemical into landfill does not sound like the best solution adding if they can find a commercial use for it, that would be ideal.
MC replies that (landfill) is not the best solution, and they are looking at viable alternatives.
ASK asked if they are intending on taking the manganese out from the start?
MC answered that they are going to treat the iron first. Then they will proceed to work with SEPA to look at the Manganese treatment. There will be options in the process where they can implement that.
ASK asked if they are using the UK or EU EQS data standards.
MC answers that it is probably the EU standards that they will be using. This was confirmed by Paul Butler (SEPA) and that there has been no change to EQS following Brexit.
PB added that it is SEPA authorisation on the Coal Authorities discharge on the treatment scheme that will set the permit so the EQS’s are not breached. The figures are roughly 1.5 mg/L for Iron and manganese.
PB comments that the Manganese is complicated (rises during the summer months as the PH rises). The treatment of the iron will impact the PH of the water. Which is why a phased approach makes sense for the treatment scheme to allow a better understanding of the manganese treatment.
CB highlighted that if the Sludge from the Iron and Manganese is to be disposed in landfill, he would be coming back to SEPA on that issue.
CG commented that the EQS for Iron and Manganese is published on SEPA website.
ASK added that in Midlothian there are projects dealing with food waste, and if we could get some joint work and avoid transporting waste to a different part if the country.
ASK asked if it is safe for animals to swim in the water?
CB explained that we were previously assured by NHS Lothian that it was safe and that he is in touch with Dr Richard Othieno on another issues.
JO asked how stable is the sediment and how likely is it that it will leach back into water courses?
MC answered that it is inert. It is iron oxide (that is found in soil). It will take a long time to leach out. If the material is mobilised; it will mobilise in small particles. If there is acidity in the landfill this could cause it to break down, indicating something wrong with the landfill.
JO queries with RL if they have any feeling that BEIS will have to scale back the funding of the project.
RL comments that they have had no feedback as to what any austerity cuts might mean for them. Adding that this is a high priority scheme.
5. SEPA – Chris Gall
Update on the burst water main at Gore Water in September. There is an ongoing investigation and Scottish Water are assisting. Fortunately, it happened before fish spawning time. SEPA ecology attended and found no impact on fish or invertebrates.
CB asked if there is any update on the Musselburgh pollution incident?
CG answered that he does not have any information. It is an ongoing investigation. PF confirmed that it is still an active investigation, so at some point they will be able to report on it.
CT asked about follow-up questions she may have to the responses SEPA issued to her previously issued questions.
PF mentions that he circulated his responses to the initial questions. Adding that Ruth Stidson is thinking about reconvening the community discussion meeting that happened in the past. CT can follow up with more detailed questions at this meeting.
PF introduced David Ogilvie, who is taking over from Vicky White as senior manager. DO introduced himself to the group.
CG passed on apologies for Rob Mitchell. Chris passes on Robs update on improvement work on fish passages. SEPA will be scoring tenders for structural survey contracts in relation to two weirs on North and one on the South Esk. The contract is expected to run through the winter.
6.East Lothian Council - Shona Grant
SG provided an update to the group.
CB added that he is in touch with NHS Lothian with regards to the concerns about the discharge at Fisherrow Sands. They will come back to him, and he will then come back to ERIG.
7. Musselburgh Flood Protection Scheme – Conor Price
CP presented slides.
Project Managers High Level report
Invasive Non-Native Species (INNS)
CP hoped that they can continue to make progress and more and organisations and more landowners can join the effort. CP added that if anyone in this group believes that they can help, please get in touch.
CB asked about the practicality of planting trees to prevent flooding.
CP answered that trees do deliver flood risk reduction benefit, but not to the scale that removes the need for a physical flood protection scheme in Musselburgh. Due to the scale, there is no combination of natural solutions that are enough to remove the need for physical defences in the town. But there is scope for more natural solutions. Which is why they are reaching out to partner organisations to understand what best practice on a national scale is and what might be possible. He will report back on this point.
RLe asked if you get landowners involved with the detection of invasive species, what help do you offer when you identify them?
CP answered that the MFPS role is to chair the group and bring together interested parties, who will facilitate things moving forward. They are not providing direct support. But there is a group that are working to empower people at a local level. Land owners have an obligation to remove invasive species in their land and they are trying to get everyone involved to take action, so they have a reasonable chance of success.
ASK asked if there is potential for natural flood management in the wider Esk catchment.
CP answered that there is tremendous potential. This is an area that needs explored more, and to whether those interventions are merited from a MFPS perspective is a different question. He will ask from a MFPS perspective and report back.
CP and CT will continue conversation about invasive species at the seafront at an upcoming meeting between FHSA and MFPS and will highlight to the group any decisions.
JO asked, how are you planning in capturing the work that you are doing for the benefit of other groups further up the Esk?
CP answered that they will continue to use our analysis to help other parties (outwidth MFPS) that may want to use natural flood management within the Esk catchment. They will have to capture this in a report. He will come back to the group on this.
8. Midlothian Council - Moira Cartwright
Environmental Crime Scheme – this is with their legal team who are looking at the third-party company. MC will forward on an update from the legal team when that arrives.
MC asked if there is there any update on NAC and if the works that had been planned had been undertaken (root ingress work with cameras). MC will contact SB on this matter
DL to provide a date for the next meeting.
CB thanks all for attending
Meeting ends 11:45am
Esk River Improvement Group Meeting Minutes – 10am, Monday 5th September 2022, Microsoft Teams
Attendance: Douglas Lyons, Colin Beattie MSP, Jenny Gray, Moira Cartwright (Midlothian Council), Shona Grant (East Lothian Council), Ann Stewart-Kmicha (Dalkeith & District Community Council), Anne Hyatt (Roslin and Bilston Community Council), Steven Boon (Scottish Water), Scott Fraser (Scottish Water), Claire Tochel (Fisherrow Harbour & Seafront Association), Rachael Langfield (Coal Authority), Ross Hughes (Forth Rivers Trust), Nim Kibbler (Forth Rivers Trust), Frazer McNaughton (Nature Scotland), Chris Gall (SEPA), Katrina Wilson (SEPA), John Oldham (Esk Valley Trust), Pauline Crerar (Fisherrow Harbour & Seafront Association), Rebecca Lewis (Buglife), Craig Macadam (Bug Life), Joy Godfrey (ENCC),
Apologies: Peter Finnie (SEPA), Derek Oliver (Midlothian Council), Carolyn Freeman (NEC), Anna Griffin (SEPA), Neil Clark (SEPA), Paul Butler (SEPA), Audrey Murray (EnjoyLeisure), Rachel Warrington (Musselburgh Flood Protection Scheme), Roger Crofts, Edel Ryan (Midlothian Council)
CB welcomes everyone to the meeting and previous minutes were approved.
1.Scottish Water – Steven Boon and Scott Fraser
Update on Water Resources - SF
In Scotland, five of the last six months have seen below average rainfall. On a national level, reservoir levels are at 76% of capacity, the average for this time of year is about 82%. In the East of Scotland, reservoir levels are at 68%.
CB asks how flexible are they in accessing the 76% national water levels for the regions that have shortages?
SF answered that they are quite flexible and have invested in resilience, the ability to move water around from one area to another. They have investment planned in the coming years to be able to maintain supplies.
SF addresses recent questions received about the low water levels at Gladhouse Reservoir. Water levels are just below 50% of capacity. Levels are artificially low due to construction work that are currently being undertaken. Following planned construction work at Gladhouse reservoir next year, (for which a planning application will be submitted), reservoir levels will increase.
On water consumption. Over the past three months, Scottish Water have undertaken media communications and community engagement work around water saving campaigns. They plan to link water usage with energy use and commented that round 50% of household energy is used on water.
CB asks how Scottish Water keep track of water capacity, to be able to match the increased demand resulting from the significant number of houses being built in Mid and East Lothian?
SF replies that they work closely with the Local Authorities on their local development plans to understand how many properties are being connected and during what time periods.
SF added they are always looking at treatment works and their capacity to meet demand. They work with developers to provide information about water usage to new homeowners, as this is an opportunity to think about water usage.
AH asked what work is done identifying and rectifying leakages, which are of a concern to the community?
SF explained that a huge amount of work is undertaken to try and identify and rectify leakages. Scottish Water lose 25% of the water that they treat and supply. By using monitoring equipment, they can undertake network analysis to see where changes in demand might identify a leak. They still have leakages, and they would like to reduce them.
Scottish Water Update following recent spills - SB
Impacted by storm condition rainfall after a dry period. They look to react as quickly as possible to issues, resolve them and then look to see if there are any improvements that can be done.
Newbattle Abbey Crescent
Near Hardengreen (in a field)
Near the Sun Inn
Iron Mills Road
Lord Ancrum’s Wood and potential future project.
SB added after a period of dry weather with lower flows, anything that's in the sewer network that shouldn't be in there, can be difficult to flush away. Following heavy rainfall, it will flush through, gather up and cause soft chokes.
CB asked if the fairly extensive outflows at Newbattle Abbey Crescent were only caused by the soft choke blockage, or was it an inevitable outcome of the way that the system works?
SB explained that ultimately high flows will have caused the blockage. If there hadn't been a soft choke, the modelling tells them the network would have been able to deal with high flows. and that he would have expected it would have discharged upstream rather than from manholes.
MC asked about CCTV work that was undertaken at NAC on 29th of August as a work order was raised.
SB replied that it sounds like they have found some roots. There is regular root cutting in this area as root ingress can be a cause of soft chokes.
CB asked if they think people are paying attention to campaigns in schools and public leaflets about not putting inappropriate material in the system?
SB answered that they have had less events they had before. Previously they were having regular events in normal conditions. Recently, they have had events in storm conditions. Adding that it sounds like the community are listening to what they are saying
SF notes that it is difficult to quantify from a campaign in terms of results. They have had less chokes this year. Adding they have another wave of the ‘nature calls’ campaign with TV advertising, radio and social media going live later in October.
CB asked if Scottish Water have any evidence that campaigns done through schools are more effective than just generally campaigning?
SF explained that they try and network with schools, and they get more requests to attend schools than Scottish Water can fulfil. They have education packs teachers can use on iPads.
CB notes that there is a strong feeling among the public that we should be moving towards eliminating outflows of sewage. Is that a long-term policy?
SB explains that CSO's are needed in the network. What is needed is to reduce the number of events that happen. Coupled with proactive work, shortening the window to react and getting monitors on outfalls. So as soon as there is a discharge, they know about it and fix it. There are 1000 new monitors going out around Scotland and some will be targeted in this area. In the future a smart network could show an increase in flows before it discharges.
CB notes that while reducing spills is commendable, in the longer term, we need to see some plans to eliminate spills.
SB states that they could head off anything at source that is not meant to go down the network. Then it will discharge in houses. Improving how the network operates and campaigns to stop things going down into the network that are at the root cause of spills.
JG asked about the new CSO with 500m3 storage. Where will that be located?
SB states that the proposal is near the new primary school. Right now, that is just a proposal.
JO asked in reference to Newbattle Abbey Crescent (NAC). Are Scottish Water saying that there is no infrastructure remedy planned at NAC and that the remedies are to do with improved monitoring and a more rapid response?
SB answered. The right thing is to have an understanding of the network, identification of a particular issue and react quickly. There was nothing he could comment on with regard to a specific issue at NAC. There is work going on there and with developers that he would have to come back on. For NAC no issues have been raised with him with regards to that network. Drainage impact assessments have been done and subsequently no issues were raised that he needs to resolve.
SF added that they have created new information videos (on their website) around wastewater and how the system works. SF commented that members may share it and use as appropriate.
2.Forth Rivers Trust – Ross Hughes
During the summer they ran presentations and walks along the river, attended by over 150 people. Topics include mini-beasts, wildlife living along the sides of the river and invasive plant species.
They are running evening presentations to do with Outfall Safari. This is a Citizen Science engagement project. Looking to run an Outfall Safari on the South Esk at the end of October. Volunteers will survey sections of the river looking for pipes that are coming into the river. They will make a note of where those are, doing a quick assessment grading them in terms of what their discharge looks like and highlighting ones that are potentially an issue.
They are also running presentations looking at eels on the Esk and one on invasive plant species.
RH shared feedback from the walks, that people had been surprised at the impacts that they were seeing and hearing about on the Esk. But also nice stories of people who have lived on the Esk all their lives telling us how the river has improved. For example, seeing things like dippers and herons on the river.
SB asked if RH needed a GIS plot or a map of all our discharge points along the Esk?
RH answered that it would be useful to check they have the most up to date information.
NK asked if it is just CSO's or discharge points as well?
SB replied that it will have all discharge points from our assets. Adding if anyone sees discharge or wastewater, and it doesn't appear on the map, then then let us or SEPA know.
SB offered to send a pdf to Colin and he could distribute to the group.
3. Coal Authority - Rachael Langfield
Mine Water Treatment Scheme at Bilston Glen. Currently reviewing recent work with contractors and consultants looking at costs and gap analysis within the scope. Undertaken a risk workshop and a cost benefit analysis.
Conversations with SEPA looking at catchment-based benefits approach and this will feed into the business case that they will present back to BEIS, detailing the increase in cost and showing parallel benefits.
Operations and technical team have been working on the project scope specifics, working on flow rates and redundancy. What they are working on is a refinement rather than complete re-work of the project. They are looking to meet BEIS for approval in January, with the contract being awarded around June. Some potential for this to accelerate.
River levels are currently low. Current chemistry - iron at 40-50 milligrams per litre and manganese is about 5 milligrams per litre. The latest flow data showing a small increase in flows.
CB asked what is the difference in the content of manganese and what does that mean?
RL offered to invite someone to the next meeting to discuss the chemistry as it currently stands. CB added that this would be interesting for the group.
AH Asked if they are going to treat the manganese initially. RL agreed to check up on this.
CB asked what is the level of cost increases in the water treatment project?
RL explained that construction costs are currently £15 million. A 50% increase. Materials, chemical and power costs have increased. There has been an escalation across all their schemes that they are currently working on.
CB offered to provide a letter of support for the project, as he had previously done. RL agreed to provide bullet points as to what they would like to see in it.
JG asked if they needed letters of support from the Community Councils to try to get maximum support. AH also happy to consider anything else that can further the project. RL agreed to contact JG about this.
AH added talking about Bilston Glen causes confusion. This is Junkies Adit, Old Fordel in Dalkeith.
AH asked if renewable energy projects attached to the scheme could reduce the cost of running the plant, using the heat of the water. RL offered to ask that question.
There was a discussion requesting more information to be provided to the community from the Coal Authority on the water treatment project. NK suggested an A4 notice that could be laminated and tied up near the river would be helpful to explain to the public what is happening.
RL offered to send something soon and thanked the group for its patience. It is probably one of the largest projects that the Coal Authority has undertaken.
4. SEPA - Katrina Wilson
CB begins with reference to recently submitted questions from Claire Tochel from Fisherrow Harbour & Seafront Association. CB asked if the questions from CT could be raised directly with the individual organisations and asked these organisations to come back, copying the group into the reply.
CB notes that it is interesting to hear more about the farming community, which is a huge part of our remit. Are there other current constraints in the catchments for the Esk where agriculture is being impacted?
KW explains for the Esk, the water scarcity levels are moderate, (they have reduced, not to such an extent that is going to have a severe impact). Current advice is to try and reduce water usage. They have not served notices to farmers that they can't abstract from the Esk, but that is in place elsewhere (in Scotland).
NK asks what is the mitigation plan for Scottish Water on the Gore Water?
NK explained that she tracked down the burst water pipe to opposite Arniston house. The Scottish Water manager on site said that there was no requirement for them to put in mitigation. The incident had been going for 30 hours before she called SEPA and a large amount of soil had been washed into the river. NK noted concern that Scottish Water, in terms of its environmental requirements to not pollute, is not letting SEPA know when they need support.
KW added they have been speaking to Scottish Water since then for mitigations. Adding that officers and ecologists are out there. KW asked if Scottish water have an update?
NK asked if Scottish Water could let her know what they expect to do in terms of mitigation also what is their understanding of their management procedures for notifying SEPA?
CB asked if we could get an update on the Gore Water spillage to distribute to Members?
SF notes that following this meeting he will look into this and ask about what mitigations are being looked at and come back to the group.
5. East Lothian Council - Shona Grant
Update on the Fisherrow Sands discharge from the former landfill at Newhailes.
Breakdown of sea defences at Morrison’s Haven
CB notes with regard to the discharge at Fisherrow Sands and potential impacts to human health. We have had NHS Lothian in before to give us reassurance on the human health risks at Junkies Adit. CB adding that he thinks it might be an idea to do that again when the assessments are complete. CB asks if they have an idea of when that will be?
SG replied that they will get advice from colleagues when the risk assessment are done in terms of how likely it is to cause a problem.
CB noted that once the assessments have been carried out on the discharges to land, he would like someone from NHS Lothian to speak to the group to give reassurance on the risks to human health. (Reassurances were given to ERIG by NHS Lothian on the human health risks of swimming in the Esk at a previous meeting).
CT and SG had a discussion around the issue of high bacterial counts from surface water at the outfall pipe on the beach. CT highlighted bacterial counts were mentioned in the report. CT will raise these points in questions to Scottish Water and SEPA and discuss at the next meeting.
6. Musselburgh Flood Protection Scheme - No update
7. Midlothian Council - Moira Cartwright
Update on Environmental Crime Strategy - MC
CB asks if the third-party company that is being appointed will be dealing with environmental issues going forward? Such as pollution in the River Esk.
MC explains that this remains with EHO’s within the Public Health and Environmental Protection team or SEPA. However, they will look at any fly-tipping on land beside the Esk.
CB asked NK to comment on fly tipping garden waste on the river Esk.
NK comments that it is fairly common practice that people take their garden waste onto the riverbank and people don’t recognize that it is a form of fly-tipping. NK added that she does not think there are issues with it in relation to dumping in the river. Planned trash screens as part of the MFPS may highlight if there are any problems with this.
MC added that she is not aware of an issue with garden waste being reported to Midlothian Council. Adding that witnessed evidence is needed of someone either carrying out the fly tipping or some evidence within the waste that links it to an individual. Midlothian Council have purchased some CCTV cameras which can be operated through lamp posts and are looking at purchasing a mobile CCTV system which they might be able to employ.
NK and MC discussed meeting to look at areas where there have been issues around garden waste/fly-tipping.
CB asked about garden waste in East Lothian. SG said there is not much evidence of garden waste being fly tipped, but ELC does not charge for garden waste.
8.Buglife - Rebecca Lewis - Volunteer coordinator for Riverfly on the River Esk.
RL provided an overview of Riverfly on the Esk project.
Riverfly on the River Esk is a Citizen Science project, operating for over three years in the community, monitoring the health of the river through surveys of macroinvertebrates or (Riverfly). This year they have also added on water testing. Riverfly on the Esk is managed, coordinated and trained through volunteers. The agenda is driven by the community.
Supported by funding from small grants from multiple organizations, including Musselburgh and District Angling Association, ENCC, CALA Holmes and Midlothian Council. Received support from multiple organisations and experts, CPA and Newbattle Abbey College, Earth Watch, Bug Life, Riverfly Partnership, Freshwater Biological Association, the Scottish Freshwater Hub and is currently hosted by the Esk Valley Trust.
All of the volunteers, no matter the background, that come into this process receive certified Riverfly Partnership training. The training takes approximately 6 hours and has a theory and a practical base.
They currently have 46 trained Riverfly partnership surveyors across Mid and East Lothian.
RL noted that the sharing of knowledge about the River Esk has put more focus on the river, inspiring more projects.
They have 9 sites established along the River Esk. The groups work autonomously. After they're trained, they are paired up with more experienced people and Rebecca offers support sessions to each of the groups to keep the confidence in what they're doing.
The project is building a baseline of information that can be used by agencies. All the data is opensource, so everybody has access to this.
The project works to increase community knowledge and understanding of the river ecology and function. It reaches out further into the community and it allows people to join that wider climate conversation.
The Riverfly partnership aims to help fill the gaps in organisations. They take surveys every month. SEPA sets a trigger level for each of the sites. If our data falls below that Trigger level, then they inform SEPA. It is an early warning system that hopes to minimise any damage by early intervention.
They are looking at the journey from the source to the sea. This year, they aim to establish at least four more survey sites along the Esk, working with four land owners in the area who are very supportive of the project. They are aiming for catchment scale and are almost there.
RL detailed the outreach work, working with John Muir Awards, with schools, support green flags and attending community events. The projects are designed to be as inclusive as possible. People with mobility issues can get involved.
It has been a successful case study within Scotland and received a lot of recognition across the UK. Buglife want to create a Riverfly hub in Scotland and have been successful in getting funding.
Similar hubs exist already in England and they work really well with the agencies. Buglife is going to be presenting that opportunity to Scotland and will be starting to train up more groups to mimic what they are doing in Midlothian and East Lothian. The new Buglife project is called ‘Guardians of our Rivers’ and will be launched in October.
Further information can be found at www.environment.gov.scot/get-involved/scottish-freshwater-hub/riverfly-on-the-esk/
CB - thanks RL, and welcomed her onto the ERIG group.
CG – Asked if they have route of communication to their ecologists for discussion of findings? RL – answered that she is open to any contact and communications. It is already a good setup they have with SEPA.
PC asked for an update on the spill earlier this year.
KW there is an ongoing investigation, and they are limited on what information they can give. When they do have information, they will provide it.
RF Asked about a request to find out who had mentioned at a previous meeting about an invasive plants monitoring group.
CB CP can update us in terms of the invasive species within MFPS at the next ERIG meeting.
Jenny Gray confirmed 7/11/22 for the next meeting.
CB thanks all for attending
Esk River Improvement Group Meeting Minutes – 10am, Monday 11th July 2022 , Microsoft Teams
Attendance: Ben Sutherland, Colin Beattie MSP, Jenny Gray, Moira Cartwright (Midlothian Council), Anne Hyatt (Roslin and Bilston Community Council), Denni Kinnear (Scottish Water), Steven Boon (Scottish Water), Claire Tochel (Fisherrow Harbour & Seafront Association), Vicki White (SEPA), Katrina Wilson (SEPA), Peter Finnie (SEPA), Paul Butler (SEPA), Roger Crofts (Esk Valley Trust), Rachael Langfield (Coal Authority).
Apologies: Shona Grant (East Lothian Council), Joy Godfrey (Eskbank and Newbattle Community Council), Conor Price (Musselburgh Flood Protection Scheme), Rachael Warrington (Musselburgh Flood Protection Scheme), Ann Stewart-Kmicha (Dalkeith & District Community Council), Tom Mills (Coal Authority).
CB welcomes the meeting and previous minutes were approved.
Scottish Water – Steven Boon and Denni Kinnear
CB asks how Scottish Water has been responding to the problem of water scarcity in light of new funding being made available by the Scottish Government to deal with private water supply sufficiency issues?
DK states that reservoir levels are at an average level of 86% for this time of the year, although it is slightly drier in the east. SEPA have been issuing some messaging focused on ground water which is mainly directed at businesses. As for private water supplies, we have a longstanding agreement with local authorities whereby if someone has any issues with their supply they should contact their local authority and they will contact Scottish Water, after which bottled water will be provided to those experiencing no water. There is a Scottish Government run project to connect private supplies to public supplies, in Scotland there is approximately 22,500 private water supplies which is quite a lot. The subject is quite complex, and it can be challenging to connect up private supplies due to the remote nature of many of these households. In Aberdeenshire, Scottish Water is also working with Scottish Government on an ongoing project in relation to this matter.
CB explains there has been quite a lot of understandable concern about the water supplies in the east of the country. We are not seeing any restrictions coming yet, is it anticipated they will come in at some point?
DK replies that if the water levels drop significantly then we would potentially do some messaging to those in the east, but at the moment they are not at that stage.
SB notes the ongoing messaging is about using water wisely. Scottish Water has consistently put that message out and giving simple and practical advice for customers such as not keeping sprinklers on all the time and washing your car less regularly and things like that. If there are opportunities for members to pass that on further, then it would be appreciated. Scottish Water are pretty quick to step up any drought incident groups when we see these problems arise, but not aware of any significant impact yet but operational colleagues are keeping a close eye on this.
CB notes there has been discussion in the past about increasing reservoir capacity, has that been considered?
SB states he cannot comment on that because he does not work on the water reservoir side of the organisation, but he could ask and report back to the group if that would be of interest.
CB responds that they certainly would be interested with knowing, the issues pertaining to relative drought in the east seems to be becoming a common feature.
SB explains there is work done well in advance of any problems they see coming on the horizon with regards to ensuring there is appropriate water distribution and treatment works capacity. Its not something Scottish Water can react to very quickly, so there is a lot of strategic work that is undertaken to ensure mitigations are all in place and there is adequate water being provided to the houses which are being built.
CB thanks SB for his input and asks if he can update on any operational activities.
SB reports there is no other specific issues to highlight to the group.
RC explains that with regards to reservoir capacity, the other side of this is that if we have rainfall if we can increase the capacity of the Esk catchment then that would be really good at being able to retain water in those areas rather than it flowing down the river.
CT asks SB if there was any further update on Eastfield Pumping Station? Understand the clean up was meant to be undertaken prior to bathing season, can SB clarify if this has all been completed?
SB confirms the works has now been completed. There will be some further works which they will do after bathing season, which is what they refer to as auxiliary work. This will mean that any other pipework and isolation valves which are okay for now will be replaced to enable them to do any further works post bathing season.
Forth Rivers Trust – Ross Hughes
RH confirms Citizen Esk has now launched and they are starting to carry out some engagement works including a series of walks along the river. Would encourage any members to pass on any information to the public and encourage them to engage with Forth Rivers Trust to give their feedback.
Coal Authority – Rachael Langfield
RL confirms permitted mine water treatment scheme development has now been granted by Midlothian Council. They are still facing challenges with regards to the increased flow costs, so they have recently met with SEPA to discuss that and to map a way forward. They are currently in a position where they are taking a paper to their ERT board where they will be asking for approval to go back to BEIS with a revised business case. They will also need to seek Crown Commercial Services approval because the costs will be around £15 million. Therefore, the re-tenders will probably happen in Q3 and the awarding of a build contract will hopefully be before the end of the financial year, but all of this is subject to BEIS approval.
CB enquires as to whether Coal Authority has been required to make any compromises in order to keep the project in budget.
RL explains this is the reason they are having to go back to BEIS because they have been unable to get the project within the original budget. Some of that is due to the differences in the flows and how they are going to address that, and the other part of that is down to increase in the rising cost of building materials. Following on from that is the running cost for the mine water treatment scheme once it has been completed on site. They are currently thinking somewhere in the region of £38 million, which is around 50% more than was originally agreed. They are looking at ways to value engineer the approach down but still make sure they keep within the needs of SEPA, so they don’t want to be doing half a job and making sure they get the outcome they need which is why they need extra money.
CB notes this seems like a huge increase in the costs, what primarily is driving that?
RL states the original maximum flow was 150Litres per second, but peak flows are now around 200 litres per second, so a significant increase in the plant capacity is needed. The average flows have also increased from around 100 litres per second to 120 litres per second. The influence of external costs is approximately £1.3million on the previous case. They are looking at redundancy within the scheme and seeing whether they can relax the specification around that piece in light of the new flows. A lot of the reason is we have got a years extra data so we are a bit more confident on future flows which has given a better understanding of what those additional costs will be.
CB replies that given the increase in the flow rate which has happened over a period of one year, will that continuing rise be an ongoing issue for the Coal Authority?
RL states that she doesn’t think so. They are looking to upgrade some of the monitoring equipment, but this has been an evolving situation and they are now confident that the 200 litres per second will achieve what they are looking for.
CB asks what Coal Authority intends to do with regards to the disposal of waste material?
RL responds this something they are working on in the background and have a couple of research and development projects as a way of clawing back some money. But the cost they have put in on this business case are based around what it is actually going to cost and any savings after that will come through.
CB notes that there are getting are initial indications that the material is just going to be buried.
RL states they are having some discussions at the moment with the environmental agency about disposal costs for ones in England because there is an issue around some of the waste disposal codes. That is something they are looking at but on a whole they are looking at alternatives rather than just send this material to a landfill.
CB comments that there must be a use for this material.
RL states that this is the piece of works which they are currently undertaking in regard to ochre. They have just completed phase one of the project and its awaiting phase two to start. There are different usages such as pigment and selling to sewage treatment works for anaerobic digestion, so they are hopeful there may have that outlet to sell the ochre on.
SEPA – Katrina Wilson
Fish Barriers – issues pertaining to land ownership permission has been progressing, this is critical to the works and its only once this has been resolved can SEPA begin the proposed work.
Shiel Burn – at a previous meeting it was raised about a discharge from the Steel Fabrication yard into the Shiel Burn. SEPA carried out a visit and no signs of pollution were found at the location. They discussed the issue with the site and information was issued about pollution and water discharge.
KW confirms that in late June SEPA investigated reports of discolouration on the river North Esk. Forth Rivers Trust was helpful in providing information to them, however the source was not established. A local resident said the cloudiness was typical of the river at this time of year, however they don’t have any further information to substantiate whether that was the case or not.
Pollution incident of January 14th, 2022 – continues to be a live criminal investigation and no further information can be provided at this stage.
CB notes his concern that the longer this investigation continues it may become more difficult to find and prosecute the perpetrators involved.
VW responds that this is not necessarily the case, there can be a lot going on in the background but due to the sensitive nature and the fact it is a live investigation there is not always much information that can be shared with the public.
East Lothian Council – Shona Grant
BS explains SG called him a few moments ago to send her apologies for the meeting but has been advised that she will provide him with a report to share with the group.
Musselburgh Flood Protection Scheme – Rachael Warrington
CB confirms RW sends her apologies for the meeting but has provided him an update to share with the group.
BS reads out the following update to the group:
Midlothian Council – Moira Cartwright
MC confirms she has nothing significant to update the group on at this time.
CB asks if any progress has been made on the formation of an environmental unit within Midlothian Council?
MC states that due to increased costs DO was required to go back to Council to ask for additional monies, but she has not received any further update from him on the outcome. An Environmental Crime Strategy has been designed which they hope to act upon, but they need the additional resources from Council to move that forward. There was an idea to do with bringing in a third-party company to provide the service which would essentially be self-funding from the fines issued from incidents of fly tipping or littering. Not exactly sure what the current situation is but MC confirms she is happy to update the group at the next meeting.
RH explains that he took a note at the previous meeting in relation to the forming of a group to the issue of invasive species in Musselburgh, asks if there are any further updates on this?
BS confirms it was CP that spoke about this in the previous meeting, advises that he will take an action point from this meeting to request the Scheme to update the group on progress with regards setting up this group at the next meeting.
CB thanks all for attending
Meeting ends 10:40am
Esk River Improvement Group Meeting Minutes – 10am, Monday 9th May 2022, Microsoft Teams
Attendance: Ben Sutherland, Colin Beattie MSP, Jenny Gray, Roger Crofts (Esk Valley Trust), Katrina Wilson (SEPA), Chris Gall (SEPA), Peter Finnie (SEPA), Paul Butler (SEPA), Ranald Lockhart (SEPA), Pauline Crerar (Fisherrow Harbour Group), Conor Price (Musselburgh Flood Protection Scheme), Rachael Warrington (Musselburgh Flood Protection Scheme), Steven Boon (Scottish Water), Scott Fraser (Scottish Water), Moira Cartwright (Midlothian Council), Derek Oliver (Midlothian Council), Ann Stewart-Kmicha (Dalkeith & District Community Council), Annette Lardeur (Coal Authority), Nim Kibbler (Forth Rivers Trust), Ross Hughes (Forth Rivers Trust), Brian Wailes (Eskbank and Newbattle Community Council).
Apologies: Edith Cameron (Rosewell & District Community Council), Shona Grant (East Lothian Council), Claire Tochel (Fisherrow Harbour & Seafront Association), Anne Hyatt (Roslin and Bilston Community Council), Philip Duncan (Musselburgh Racecourse), Joy Godfrey (Eskbank and Newbattle Community Council).
CB welcomes the meeting and previous minutes were approved.
CB reads out update from Rosewell & District Community Council:
‘Rosewell & District Community Council recently carried out a clean-up of the Shiel Burn in which they filled a full skip with metal and another full of plastic waste including 5 tyres, an oil drum, plastic pipes, builders bags alongside general food packaging litter. The skips were funded by Crown Estate Scotland who manage the land on either side of the burn. The builder's yard have agreed to erect fencing to stop further litter in the river but the Community Council plan to speak to the Steel Fabricators to do the same, and to ask about a waste pipe which had foul smelling liquid coming from the Steel fabrication yard’.
Scottish Water – Steven Boon and Scott Fraser
SB reports there are no specific issues to highlight to the group.
Lord Ancrum Wood – SB confirms a value management session has recently taken place to look at a potential project at this site. At present, what is being considered is whether there are any opportunities in the upstream network for surface water management. They are also looking at what storage capacity there is in the network and downstream in the PFI storm works. They are also redoing the model in that area which will feed into any CSO proposals. It will look at any programme of blockages and whether proactive cleaning is needed. SB states all of this information will be taken into a further meeting which will bring all of those numbers to the table to determine what option is best to take forward. SB notes the process tends to move relatively slowly but they are trying to push things forwards as quickly as possible.
Eastfield Pumping Station –Scottish Water committed to undertaking a significant piece of work at Eastfield Pumping Station prior to bathing season. SB reports this piece of work has gone very well and has consisted of draining down the pumping station and managing with tankers, whilst at the same time checking out all the equipment. SB notes they did find one of the five pump lines was split, however they do have a standby arrangement which means they are technically okay with one of those pipes being taken out so long as there have critical spares on site. It is their intention to do any repairs required at the pumping station prior to bathing season. SB states they found a significant amount of rags in the wet wells when they were cleaning, so seeing it back to as it was designed is a fantastic place to be. Once all the work has been completed, they will do a drop test to check what flows the pumping station can pass forward and whether it can meet the flows on its licence.
PC asks with regards to the pump line splitting if this meant the line was broken?
SB explains there is a large pump with pipework which goes through a concrete wall and into the next well. It pulls out the flows out of the wet well and pushes it through into a rising mains which takes it further down the network. SB notes immediately when it came out of the pump it was clear it would not be capable of pumping any decent flow and was taking away pressure from the other pumps which was impacting their performance. The pump has subsequently been blanked off and they are now looking to install new pipework.
‘Nature Calls’ Campaign – SF thanks members for their support with helping to share the campaign on social media. Scottish Water were delighted with the response they received from organisations, customers and members of the public. SF states this was a huge campaign for Scottish Water which included advertisement on TV, radio, cinema, digital and outdoors. SF explains there were two angles to the campaign around binning wipes, as well as calling for a ban on wipes which contain plastic. This will be a campaign Scottish Water will be running for some time and will be looking to do further national advertisement later in the year. They will also be working with their operational colleagues to see if this has led to a significant change in behaviours.
CB mentions one of the issues he has noticed coming up regularly has been the general release of sewage into waterways. There have been around 470,000 controlled releases into our rivers in England and we do see the same problems happening here. Seems that the whole system is geared to having that sort of facility. What is the long-term strategy for getting away from this system?
SF explains he has seen a lot more interest in how the wastewater system works in Scotland. People are concerned about what is being released into the environment and in their rivers. Scottish Water have been investing huge sums of money in our wastewater infrastructure over the past 15 years to improve its network. In Scotland, there is not as much network monitoring in comparison to England, but there has been significant investment in screening and upgrading our sewer overflows. By putting more monitoring in place, it will help to identify if there are spillages when there shouldn’t be, as well as detailing the volumes of spillages when they do occur. In the long term, Scottish Water are grappling with a number of factors including climate change and looking at how they can ensure as much of the wastewater gets safely treated back to the environment. It will also be about working with partners to remove surface water from the network and making improvements to ‘blue-green’ infrastructure. This is alongside public campaigns to change behaviours such as stopping wipes being flushed down the toilet and getting into the environment.
CB thanks SF for his input but notes it appears some fundamental works is needed over a lengthy period in order to stop these sewage releases. Does Scottish Water have a plan to implement over the coming decades to get us to a point where all sewage is properly treated and doesn’t need to be released into the waterways?
SF advises that he does not believe they can entirely prevent the need for release points into the environment, but they can minimise this significantly as well as managing what does go into it. Because of competing factors such as preventing flooding it would be difficult to have a completely sealed system which never releases into the environment. Levels of wastewater treatment in Scotland are very high, but there is always more that can be done.
CB contributes that it appears from SF’s answer the plan is to manage down the number of releases from its current point.
SF agrees and adds it’s about making improvements and better understanding what happens in our networks through monitoring to ensure they are on top of everything and mitigations are in place when things do go wrong. What is also important is improving the removal of surface water from the network as much as possible. This will all take a significant number of years and investment, but it is possible.
CP adds a few weeks ago SEPA revised their climate change projections for fluvial flood risk and increased the percentages for expected river flows. If there is going to be ever more water in the catchment during rainfall and storm events this will put increased pressure on infrastructure, particularly as the old combined systems already bring together sewerage and surface water. CP explains the situation is going to get every more challenging and local authorities would be appreciative if a plan was to come down from national government as this would require a major restructuring of civil infrastructure to facilitate the stopping of those releases based on the current rainfalls.
SF confirms he would echo much of what CP has said and states Scottish Water are working on blue-green infrastructure to address the issue of increased rainfall and surface water. This isn’t just a matter for Scottish Water, and therefore they are working in partnership with others at various local levels. For example, in Edinburgh Scottish Water are trying to look at certain streetscape projects and working with City of Edinburgh Council to decide how they can reduce surface water from some of the combined sewers.
CB thanks SF and asks if he could update the group every other meeting on any progress that is being made in our local area.
RC adds this issue illustrates we should be working more with nature and it is important this approach is taken throughout the catchment. RC notes it may be useful to ask for larger landowners within catchment what their thoughts are on how we can restrain flows into the river.
CB states he will discuss this proposal with a few landowners to see if they have any interest in this.
Forth Rivers Trust – Nim Kibbler
NK announces Forth Rivers Trust are running a community-based development project called ‘Citizen Esk’. This project will be community led and as such contact has been made with a number of members in the group about forming a community steering group. NK states she would encourage any members of the group to share their thoughts with her about what issues they would like to see more data about or what they would be interested to see on the Esk in order for these ideas to shape the project.
NK reports this month they have met with some community groups and will be doing a formal press launch alongside working on their website. The intention with Citizen Esk is to inspire plenty of community engagement and encourage people to learn more about the Esk. NK confirms there will also be volunteering and citizen science projects to gather data on some of the issues they are seeing on the river.
CB notes Citizens Esk seems to be a big project and will require working with a large number of stakeholders, asks how Forth Rivers Trust is managing that?
NK explains they are not doing a full stakeholder approach to the catchment. It is a community development project which involves working with the local communities along the Esk.
RC adds he is in informal discussions with a number of interests to see how they could shape a broader project, of which Citizen Esk could be a component part. RC states the project would have scientific involvement alongside input from the community.
CB asks if RC could keep the group updated on how these discussions are progressing.
Coal Authority – Annette Lardeur
AL confirms a document has been submitted to Midlothian Council setting out the indicative plans for the scheme. Midlothian Council have asked for a small extension to review the proposals, but they are hoping to receive a response in the coming weeks. That decision will set out the boundaries for the project and will feed into any design work being done.
AL notes she is aware Coal Authority have not done much stakeholder engagement in the past couple of months. This was due to the tenders coming back with much higher costs than anticipated, which in turn has created challenges. AL explains if Coal Authority want to engage with people in the local community it is important they are able to convey the right information about the project. This is a key area being looked at and they are planning to do direct engagement face-to-face with local residents adjacent to the site alongside wider community engagement. AL hopes she will have more details on this work to share with the group at the next meeting.
Over the last couple of months, Coal Authority have been considering their options in terms of how they can absorb these higher costs. AL confirms the conclusion being reached is that in order to absorb these costs they must find a way to reduce the scale of the works they would do. In terms of next steps, Coal Authority are setting up a meeting with SEPA to discuss what they are proposing. In essence, they want to deliver the same outcomes and treat the same volumes to the same quality but look into making small scale alternations.
AL explains that any changes they make to reduce the price would fundamentally reduce the amount of water they could treat, which they don’t believe will be the correct approach. In order to move forward they will realistically need to get further approvals which is currently discussed at a senior management level. Over the coming weeks key decisions on the scheme will be made in order to progress, in parallel they will also be looking at what options they have to mitigate any further delays.
CB states the group would be concern if the volumes the scheme could treat were to be reduced as this would not lead to a good outcome. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like there are any areas where significant costs could be saved.
AL notes the only way to substantially save money would be to reduce the volume, which is the wrong thing to do. However, there are small scale changes being looked at which could reduce some of the costs.
ASK contributes that she is aware the temperature of the mine water coming out of Junkies Adit is around 15 degrees Celsius, wonders if Coal Authority could do something with regards to renewables?
AL explains this is something which is being looked at. There is a lot of promotion about mine energy heat schemes, but in order to make that work they would need to tie this in with other developments. Therefore, it is unlikely they would be able to do something big, but what they could do is build-in the potential for linking in with a similar project in the future.
ASK thanks AL for her response and states it is reassuring that Coal Authority are not looking to reduce the volume of water they could treat.
CB notes he is aware of initiatives on geothermal energy in Midlothian. The Council has a partnership with Vattenfall, who are a Swedish company that have a great deal of experience with these types of projects. CB states it might be worthwhile for Coal Authority to talk to them.
AL advises there has already been in discussions with Vattenfall. Coal Authority are able to produce the mine energy, but there needs to be a source for it which would require getting all other developments aligned. They can allow for uptake if there are other schemes in the future.
PB states SEPA are very supportive of the option not to reduce the amount of water that is being treated and for Coal Authority to seek additional funding. PB adds that SEPA are seeing a seasonal reduction in flow to the River Esk and recognise there has been concerns raised by the community. As the river flows reduce, additional mine water impacts are to be expected during the lower flow months, so visually the orange discolouration could extend further downstream.
Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) – Katrina Wilson
KW reports that SEPA have not received a high number of complaints since the last meeting, notwithstanding a few incidents concerning discolouration on the Esk. KW reminds the group SEPA have an online form to report incidents as well as its 24/7 pollution hotline.
Fish Barriers – KW notes at a previous meeting there was confusion surrounding the names of one of the fish barriers upstream of the bridge at Newmills Road. KW confirms to the group Registers of Scotland have named this as Newbattle Weir. In terms of fish barriers, SEPA are experiencing delays trying to obtain landowner and structure owner agreements at the weirs. Progress has been slow, but they are hoping to advertise the tender for the structural integrity surveys in the coming months.
Fisherrow Sands – out of season monitoring has indicated sources of pollution in the Brunstane Burn. SEPA are planning to monitor the bathing water in near and associated sites during the bathing season and will decide next steps at the end of the season. The plan for the 2022 bathing water season monitoring is being prepared, which will consist of 18 samples taken during that period. The out of season monitoring results are now available and KW happy to circulate with members.
River Esk Pollution incident from 14th January – KW states this continues to be a live criminal investigation and therefore she is limited on the information she can provide to the group at this time. KW advises their ecology team have found the River Esk has recovered quickly, but work does continue in terms of the investigation.
BS asks if SEPA are aware of an incident reported on social media over the weekend of an orange substance in the watercourse at the Electric Bridge in Musselburgh?
PB explains from the images he has seen it appears there is pollen or blossom floating on the river which has been stained orange from the iron ore coming from Junkies Adit.
ASK contributes that in one of the surveys she has seen Dalkeith Weir was labelled the barrier by Newmills Road, whilst Newbattle Weir was by the Sun Inn. However, this has now been clarified by Registers for Scotland.
CB states in relation to the update he provided from RDCC it might be have more weight if SEPA was to approach the Steel Fabrications to discuss the foul-smelling liquid, asks if KW could keep an eye on this.
NK adds that she understands this issue has been reported to SEPA on a number of occasions.
KW asks NK if she is aware if this is a recent issue?
NK notes it has been reported over the past few years, she has spoken to RDCC about his problem during lockdown because they previously conducted an electrofishing survey of the Shiel Burn. NK adds she believes that because the Shiel Burn is already heavily polluted this may have resulted in SEPA’s not prioritising this issue.
East Lothian Council – Shona Grant
CB explains that SG sends her apologies and she will provide a report to be circulated with group.
Musselburgh Flood Protection Scheme – Conor Price
CP confirms he does not have much to update the group regarding progress on the scheme. The Project Team have been overwhelmed with the scale of information they have received over the six-month period of extensive consultation. At the final consultation event alone, many members of the public filled out their questionnaires with huge amounts of information. The Project Team are trying to contemplate all of this information to fully inform East Lothian Council on what the people of Musselburgh think about their proposals in order for them to ensure the next steps are decided on the basis of the evidence they have received.
CP reports the Scheme have appointed a new Stakeholder Project Manager, Rachael Warrington, to increase the scheme’s ability to communicate with the town.
CP explains the Scheme has been setting-up a partnership to work with Dynamic Coast and University of Glasgow to better understand the coastal environment and the potential for natural coastal flood risk reduction solutions within the Scheme. There is a desire from people in the town to try and utilise natural systems within the catchment and the Scheme has been provided a number of key contacts at universities across Scotland who they are currently reach out to.
The Scheme had a meeting with SEPA before Christmas in relation fish passage and the obstruction of weirs within Musselburgh. The question was posed as to whether there is sufficient overlap between the Scheme and those weirs such that multiple benefits can be delivered. SEPA are currently considering this at a strategic level and the Scheme has opened up the conversation through to the Forth Rivers Trust, who CP understands are going to undertake additional survey work for East Lothian Council to better understand the two weirs at Goosegreen and Eskmills, as well as the patch of water in between those weirs to identify if there is any potential for biodiversity, habitat and fish passage improvements which could be achieved within the flood protection scheme.
CP advised the Scheme has been managing the Eskmills Weir for a period of time to assist SEPA and Forth Rivers Trust with obtaining a new CAR licence to protect and minimise the potential for small fish to enter into that watercourse. As such last week the Scheme’s Project Team coordinated a works activity with the support of Forth Rivers Trust and Jacobs to do some maintenance work on the weir gates which was undertaken without any issues. This should mean there will not be any challenges to waterflow into the Mill lade for the summer period.
CP reports a new group is emerging within the Esk catchment who are going to take a lead on managing invasive species above Musselburgh which will be led by James Wylie. He is now forming a new group bringing in some expertise from his previous works on the River Tyne and reaching out to key stakeholders across the catchment. In addition, CP explains two weeks ago a meeting took place of all the key delivery partners who are actively managing invasive species, namely East Lothian Council, Inveresk Village Society, Musselburgh Flood Protection Scheme, the new invasive species group and Midlothian Council. Going forward the intention is to expand this steering group into a larger group working in parallel to ERIG.
CP states SEPA’s guidance on fluvial climate change has changed as of a few weeks ago. The Scheme are currently reaching out to SEPA and Scottish Government in order to understand what they are expecting of a flood protection scheme moving forward. CP explains the Scheme and East Lothian Council will need to be careful in ensuring they are finding the right balance between national advice and the desire of the people of Musselburgh not to have defence which are not too onerous to their environment.
CB notes one issue which he has become increasingly apparent in recent months is the amount of misinformation which seems to be circulating within the town, asks CP if there is an effective way to get the message out that this information is incorrect?
CP explains this is an issue the Scheme have been grappling with over the past year. The Project Team is aware of various streams of misinformation that have been circulating within the community which they find disappointing. They have continued to reiterate that no decision has been made on the form of defences. Within the Scheme’s key communications to the community dating back to January 2020 they have clearly stated that defences on the coastal foreshore greater than 1.4 metres would not be taken forward and therefore there is no scenario where a ‘Berlin wall’ would be constructed within the town. CP notes the Project Team will need to be very clear as to exactly what they are saying moving forward to avoid any ambiguity. The Scheme has also built a number of new communication tools to report through to the town and when key decisions have been made, they will need to state precisely what has been agreed and what is going to happen. Thereafter, if there is further misinformation everybody who has been informed through these communication channels will automatically know if this is not correct.
RC argues CP is suggesting the community has been purposefully mischievous. The displays which he has seen in reference to height of structures have been taken from figures given in community consultations throughout the Autumn by the consultants. RC further reports earlier this year the consultants decided to put an advert in the East Lothian Courier displaying a flood prediction at the bottom of Musselburgh High Street and declared 2,600 properties would be involved. One of the reactions to that was house insurances were immediately increased, by up to 80% in some cases. RC notes he has not met anyone that doesn’t believe there should not be flood protection works along the Esk, but what they want is for an open and transparent discussion. RC believes the action group was established to ensure there was much more dialogue with the town, which he hopes will improve following the appointment of Rachael Warrington.
CP notes that in relation to the area of misinformation he would highlight three examples. The first was misinformation within the town that the Scheme was planning to reopen the Electric Bridge for vehicles. This was incorrect and at no point was this ever stated by the Project Team, notwithstanding there was a lot of fear in New Street and Fisherrow areas that there would be an increase in road traffic in that location. Secondly, there was a fear and misinformation that they were going to remove bridges in the town and not put them back. This was a clear case of misinformation because the Project Team have stated on many occasions that they intend to replace bridges with ones that allow the water to pass through more easily. Finally, in some instances the Project Team did talk about a wall that was 2 metres in height, but along the foreshore the Scheme it was never stated that a wall would be this height. CP explains on the lower part of the Brunstane Burn on the private grounds of Scottish Water the wall will have to be 2 metres high over a short distance due to the asset being on extremely low ground. CP notes he has continually explained this is the only location at present where the form of defence has been decided.
Midlothian Council – Moira Cartwright
MC confirms there are no specific updates from Midlothian Council.
CB asks if SEPA can provide any indication as to whether they have identified the source and the perpetrators of the incident which took place on 14th January?
KW states as this is a live criminal investigation, she is very limited on the information she can provide at this time. It is still a live case within SEPA, and they are continuing with their investigations.
PC notes at a previous meeting a question was raised about the material coming from the sea defences at Morrisons Haven, understands a member from East Lothian Council was going to check this. CP to prompt a response from East Lothian Council representative.
CB thanks all for attending.
Meeting ended 11:20am.
Esk River Improvement Group Meeting Minutes – 10am, Monday 14th March 2022, Microsoft Teams
Attendance: Ben Sutherland, Colin Beattie MSP, Jenny Gray, Roger Crofts (Esk Valley Trust), Katrina Wilson (SEPA), Chris Gall (SEPA), Peter Finnie (SEPA), Pauline Crerar (Fisherrow Harbour Group), Shona Grant (East Lothian Council), Conor Price (Musselburgh Flood Protection Scheme), Claire Tochel (Fisherrow Harbour & Seafront Association), Steven Boon (Scottish Water), Denni Kinnear (Scottish Water), Edel Ryan (Midlothian Council), Ann Stewart-Kmicha (Dalkeith & District Community Council), Anne Hyatt (Roslin and Bilston Community Council), Joy Godfrey (Eskbank and Newbattle Community Council), Philip Duncan (Musselburgh Racecourse), Tom Mills (Coal Authority).
Apologies: Edith Cameron (Rosewell & District Community Council).
CB welcomes the meeting and previous minutes were approved.
Scottish Water – Steven Boon and Denni Kinnear
SB notes they haven’t received any call outs for the majority of their assets, so not much to update the group on.
Lord Ancrum Wood: a bit of debris picking was undertaken a few months ago after some storms. SB mentions he is attending a value management session later in the afternoon in which they will assess a number of projects for Lord Ancrum Wood and look at which might be best value for customer money. SB explains there is also the option of doing nothing, meaning if the operational activities and the proactive cleaning have shown enough of an impact to keep on top of the situation then this might be the most viable option. SB hopes to provide a further update on this at the next meeting.
Works near Newbattle Abbey Crescent: SB shares an image of the surrounding area to provide details of the works. SB explains there are two areas of development, at one of the locations a drainage impact assessment has been carried out and the developers are doing works to install some pipework which includes online storm storage. At the second development a drainage impact assessment has been carried out and their initial proposal was to connect it down to the network at the bottom end of the development. However, the model showed this wasn’t possible and they have now been asked to install a pumping station to take it up to the top end network. SB notes Scottish Water are doing a strategic assessment to make sure there is no detrimental impact further downstream. There will also be private SUDS and private SUDS pipework installed at those developments to remove surface water. SB mentions it is for the developer, not Scottish Water, to provide communications to the local community regarding the work they are doing. However, if there are any actions that come back from the strategic studies then Scottish Water would do communications about any work that would be required to the network. SB further reports there will not be a sewage or an emergency overflow connection to the Pittendreich Burn, the only connection which might be installed is a SUDS connection for surface water.
CG clarifies to the group that when SB is referring to a downstream impact assessment, this is in relation to downstream sewer impacts and not downstream river impacts. SB agrees.
PC asks for explanation on how online storm storage works.
SB explains that sewers for the size of the development can be relatively small, but if the study shows that heavy rainfall would require more flow to go through the network, they can install bigger pipes to provide greater online storage. Alternatively, a bigger sewer can be installed at points where pipes are smaller, either with a bigger pipe or an offline storage tank. It essentially provides a backup and some additional storage capacity.
ER notes the local authority have had requests from local residents in relation to at least one of the developments. ER understands their planners are currently looking into this and they may come back to Scottish Water if there is any further information required.
Kilburn: SB confirms issue was caused by a choke in the network and not as a result of the pumping station breaking down. There was also some discoloured water in the Kilburn but that came from a David Wilson housing development which wasn’t from their network. SB notes when these issues arise, they would pick this up with the developers and make sure these issues are fixed, and on this occasion Scottish Water cleared the rubble causing a blockage in the manholes on their behalf. SB explains there was an issue at end of December and a subsequent one at beginning of January in which both were resolved on same day. They have been doing some proactive cleaning and could do targeted communications through letter drops to local residents. SB further reports there are currently no plans to upgrade the pumping station to accommodate for the additional burden of those David wilson homes, because it works as it needs to. The strategic wastewater model assessment done for the development site concluded that the pumping station has got capacity to support the new development. However, SB notes they will rerun a modelling study of the wider network to make sure there is nothing further required. If the model did identify that the pumping station or the network needed to be upgraded in order to accept that development, then it is the developers who would front those costs.
AH enquires as to whether Scottish Water plans to do a letter drop to the new residents living near the Kilburn, or if this is just an idea at present.
SB confirms it is just an idea, as this is only done where there are repeat offenders. They have not seen any issues since January 7th, but they will do a letter drop if another blockage occurs.
Eastfield Pumping Station: work has been progressing with the aim of having this completed prior to bathing season. The current work involves making sure the penstocks can be isolated properly which is due to start today and should take about 10 days. SB explains the plates that come down to isolate the flows coming into the pumping station were not operating well enough to allow the work to be completed safely, therefore they have devised a new way of conducting the work in order to get the penstocks isolated. Once completed that will be all the work finished with regards to cleaning. The final piece of work will be to look at the pieces of kit to make sure everything is good as it needs to be.
Coal Authority – Tom Mills
On 31st January two stakeholder engagement events were held to give an introduction or update to the public on the mine water treatment scheme. TM reports this event went well, with a mixture of people and organisations in attendance.
A few weeks ago, the Coal Authority submitted their prior notification for permitted development to Midlothian Council planners which is currently going through the system. TM notes the Coal Authority has also recently purchased an individual property which will be demolished in order to improve access to the proposed site for the treatment scheme on Newmills Road for building and operationality in the future. This has been included in the package of information which has been provided to Midlothian Council planning regarding the demolition process.
TM explains that the flows and chemistry of the mine water has not significantly changed, but they did experience a high flow event a couple of weeks ago after heavy rain, which caused flows to significantly increase and led to a deterioration of the river conditions due to sheer volume of rain getting into the mine system. TM states the flows seem to be returning to seasonal levels and the event has not caused a significant change in the water chemistry, but they will continue to monitor.
The main works have been out to tender and the Coal Authority has now received the bids back from the design and build contractors, they are now currently working through the various proposals. TM notes the costs are have increased in the construction industry, but they are working with the tenders to explore various options to reduce costs without causing any detrimental impact on the overall works.
CB asks what sort of flexibility the Coal Authority has to absorb the impact of rising costs on the project.
TM states an element of risk was included as part of the business case which was put forward to BEIS. The Coal Authority have also been working with SEPA to look at the current permit and exploring whether there is an option to reduce the amount of water that could be treated and how to work through different flow conditions. There are also engineering options such as how much welfare provision they have on site. TM notes they don’t want to compromise too much on the scheme and will also be looking at what proposals the tenders come up with.
ASK highlights the major concern from the local community is what they perceive as lack of communication from the Coal Authority and are requesting that members of TM’s team meet with the community on both sides of the river. The Community Council is available to help facilitate communications with local residents where necessary. ASK further reports she is also aware of several small errors in the communications sent by the Coal Authority which aren’t inspiring confidence with local residents, noting the poster referred to a Bilston Glen event and there was also a mix up with dates. ASK states she did ask at the presentation events if it might be possible to see what the treatment scheme would look like from the other side of the river as that is another issue which was causing concern. Additionally, local residents are also worried about the boundary with James Lean Avenue, but this could be resolved with some kind of communication. ASK notes she is also perplexed about the demolition of a very old building in order to provide access to the site, as the paperwork she has seen that was submitted to the Council seems to show the building has to be demolished to accommodate for the treatment scheme.
TM thanks ASK for her comments, agrees Zoom is not ideal for engagement with the local community and explains COVID-19 was the reason for why the events were held remotely. The next steps for engagement will be 1 to 1s particularly along James Lean Avenue to meet and understand the concerns of residents at that boundary. On visibility from other side of the river, they are drawing up stakeholder plans but are currently in a process of tender clarification which might impact on the design. TM notes in regards to the demolition that the site is extremely constrained in terms of access to build the treatment scheme, so it is necessary to make the site safer to operate. TM explains further stakeholder engagement work will be set out once the current stage has been completed.
ASK reiterates the importance of early engagement with the local community because rumours will start to grow. People are already talking about a 50ft high building which she hasn’t seen in the design work. However, ASK states she would also like to compliment the Coal Authority as its EIA is very thorough.
Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) – Katrina Wilson
River Esk Pollution incident from 14th January: SEPA has continued with its incident response. The multi-agency meetings concluded at the end of February, but since then SEPA and East Lothian Council have continued to meet regularly to ensure the incident is under control and to provide updates to the public. SEPA ecologists have also done further water and soil sampling in the tributary of the River Esk which has been taken and analysed. They are continuing to monitor the watercourse and collect data. KW notes the information provided for the investigation by the public has been valuable and SEPA would like to thank everyone who provided this to them, but unfortunately whilst the investigation is live she is limited on what else they can share at the moment. KW invites SG to provide further information from an East Lothian Council perspective.
SG states she would mirror much of what KW has said, they have continued to meet regularly to provide communication updates to let the public know this is still an ongoing exercise. SG confirms she currently attends the site at least once a week to monitor the watercourse. The number of absorbents deployed have been reduced because the situation is improving, and some were also washed out from higher flows and have now been retrieved. SG further reports the Council have been liaising with the golf course, who have also been keeping an eye on the watercourse for them.
KW notes there has been an unusually high number of incidents in the River Esk and its tributaries in recent weeks, however she would like to reassure everyone that these are unrelated. SEPA have been investigating the reports and ensuring that mitigations have been provided, and have also provided regular updates to partner agencies, stakeholders and the public. KW explains they have recently responded to an incident relating to a burst domestic heating oil tank and have also received a number of notifications of silt coming from construction sites.
Eastfield Pumping Station: SEPA continue to work with Scottish Water via the Eastfield Wastewater Pumping Station Operational Group to ensure the works are carried out prior to bathing season.
Fisherrow Sands: out of season monitoring has now concluded, early indications show a possibility of other sources of pollution in the Brunstane Burn which will be investigated once the full results have been interpreted. KW notes this work has been only recently been completed and therefore they do not have the full results yet.
Fish barriers: work continues to improve fish passage at two barriers in the North Esk at Montague Bridge and Ironmills, as well as one on the South Esk at Dalkeith Weir, which she notes is also known as Newbattle Weir. Discussions with land and structure owners are continuing with a view to obtain permission for the first set of structural surveys, which has been delay due to complexities over land and structure ownership. It is hoped these surveys will be carried out in Q1 of the next financial year.
ASK mentions it is her understanding that Dalkeith Weir is different to Newbattle Weir. Dalkeith Weir is at the location where the Coal Authority is undertaking the mine water treatment scheme, whereas Newbattle Weir is further up the river near the Sun Inn.
KW states she will look into this and find out.
CB enquires about how the recovery has been going from the IT issues.
KW states the process is ongoing, but they are in a much better position in comparison to this time last year. KW explains they have not been able to recover their old systems but have got new systems up and running which allow them to do their job. Progress has been made and things are much easier than 12 months ago.
PF explains SEPA had a digital strategy prior to the cyber-attack which was looking to morph a lot of their old systems onto modern platforms. These were originally five years plans which have been brought forward due to the cyber-attack. PF notes this has been an extreme growing pain but has meant the organisation is now moving into a space they were looking to be in 3- or 4-years’ time.
CT enquires as to when the results from the analysis from Fisherrow might be released.
KW states she is unaware when the results will be analysed.
CB asks if there is any prospect of catching whoever it was that was responsible for the incident on 14th January?
KW explains it is difficult to provide details because there is a live investigation, there is a positive line of enquiry but that’s all she can say at this time.
East Lothian Council – Shona Grant
SG mentions members of East Lothian Council recently attended an oil pollution beach supervisor course run by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which took place last week over two days. This formed part of an ongoing training programme which was delayed as a result of COVID-19. SG notes there was a high attendance at the course across Local Authorities, as well as representatives from the Ministry of Defence, Dunbar Harbour Trust, North Berwick Harbour Trust and Fisherrow Harbour and Seafront Association. SG mentions the course was very informative and will be useful for them to have that knowledge going forward.
SG explains the work at Newhailes remains ongoing, some of the manholes are either buried or significantly covered in vegetation so work has been going on to clear these areas in order for sampling to begin in the next few weeks.
CT notes she would like some feedback from East Lothian Council in relation to fibrous material which she believes is coming from the sea defences at Morrisons Haven. CT adds the material consistently makes up approximately half of her litter bag from rubbish she picks up at Fisherrow Sands and would like to know if there are any plans within East Lothian Council to do something about this.
SG states she will look into this and see who CT needs to speak to about this matter.
PC states she has been helping to set up new sites in Musselburgh to do with surveying for river fly. PC reports she was out checking for flies with an ecologist one week after the pollution incident and did notice the flies appear to be healthier further up the river from the incident. The ecologist is hoping to post their results online.
Musselburgh Flood Protection Scheme – Conor Price
CP confirms the Scheme maps were published in January 2022. The team has also been continuing to consult with key organisations and individuals across the town to understand their concerns and thoughts pertaining to the project. The Project Team have recently undertaken 3 major consultations events, a meeting for the Esk Corridor and Coastal areas on 8th and 9th of February, as well as a further meeting for the whole town which took place on the 8th March.
CP notes the Scheme has now reach a partnership agreement with Dynamic Coast, with a final review of the contractual arrangements currently in the final stages of completion. A piece of work with them regarding natural solutions on the foreshore will begin thereafter.
CP reports the Scheme’s website is now fully functional and there is a huge amount of information on it with all the historical documents available for download. CP believes the Project Team has delivered everything that has been asked of them by the Project Board through Q1 2022, so the key question is what is next for the project.
Since summer 2021, as part of the consultation, the Scheme has been engaging with its regulatory working groups, involving all the appropriate officers with statutory, regulatory or licensing oversight of the Scheme. There have been three different working groups: planning, heritage and landscape, watercourse coastal impact and road structures and access. CP explains they have also been engaging with Musselburgh Community Council, NatureScot, Dynamic Coast, University of Glasgow, Musselburgh Flood Protection Scheme Action Group and other notable concerned individuals who have contacted them with key thoughts they want the team to consider including the Musselburgh Business Partnership, Musselburgh’s elected representative, Buccleuch Estates and Dalkeith Country Park.
CP states he was delighted with the outcome of the meeting on 8th March. There were 14,000 letters of invitation sent out from the team to every property with a EH21 postcode plus some other properties in adjacent postcodes. CP confirms 422 people attended on the day, which was a huge number of people for a 10-hour event which took place in a single room in the town. One of the trends he noticed was that people were staying for a very long time, engaging with the team and reviewing all the boards. There were 322 questionnaires completed on the day and the team are now ongoing in analysing this information. CP notes the team were able to analyse the postcodes of people who attended and will be looking at this further to identify any gaps or areas where people are not engaging with them. Equally, the Project Team will be trying to identify the age groups that have not engaged with them so far and will be refocusing the next consultations to capture those who haven’t yet participated.
CP explains there has been huge amount of information conveyed to them which have been built up under 4 different themes: concepts, concerns, risks, and opportunities. CP notes the Project Team have not yet inputted the analysis from the recent consultation events in February and March which will be a key task in the next couple of weeks. Thereafter they will be able to extrapolate out key words and areas that are of the greatest importance to the public. CP states they will need to be careful about this and notes that just because a word turns up a lot doesn’t necessarily mean it is the most important. Words such as ‘bridge’, ‘electric bridge’ and ‘mouth of river’ jumped out from lots of the word clouds, however they are not seeing the same scale of word associated with defences as these can fit under many words. CP notes the Project Team need to grasp the background behind the words and then consider how do to absorb these messages and themes into the design once it begins to move forward.
The Project Team have now published two new pages on the Scheme’s website to provide unique destinations for information associated with two key themes: hydraulic modelling and natural solutions. CP notes both of these sections have been clearly highlighted to them throughout the consultation as areas the public and organisations want more information on. The team are putting in place all information they can on these pages to provide further clarity on these matters, and once the project moves forward these spaces will be used to evolve the conversation on natural solutions.
The Scheme’s Project Board met on Thursday 10th March to consider the progress in consultation prior to the design commencing. CP explains the Project Board has considered that the Project Team have undertaken an extensive process to consult widely across the town and across organisations to capture thinking before the design starts. CP notes he is not in a position to provide further information on the outcome of that meeting at the moment, however this will be published outwards to the town later this week.
CP advises on behalf of the Project Team and East Lothian Council he would like to express his sincere thanks to everyone who has participated in the consultation process to date to provide their thoughts about the Scheme. CP explains the Project Team want to do justice to all of the information that has been given to them in order for them to decide the best next steps for how to move forward with the project.
RC states he is pleased there is a recognition that further consultation of the community of interest is needed. RC reports it is also good that the historical documents are now on the website but notes many of these were developed years ago and have only became available to the public in recent weeks. It is important that we can have a process of engagement to understand what is behind some of these documents, as they do come to decisive conclusions but without offering the evidence that supports those claims. RC explains one of the major worries relates to the hydraulic model being used, which is this 1 in 200-year event which the public are being told is on the instruction of Scottish Government. Therefore, in the eyes of the consultants this seems to preclude most nature-based solutions in the catchment. RC asks for clarity regarding the process of decision making, notes most of the funding has come from the Scottish Government, but we are being told that it is East Lothian Council that decides. What role does SEPA have in the formal decision-making process, as well as other government agencies such as NatureScot?
CP confirms a new page on the website has been created to provide more information on the hydraulic model, and soon other technical reports will also be uploaded to that location. CP recognises the process is not concluded but is committed to constructing that webpage into a space for all information associated with the hydraulic model. CP continues by stating there is no divergence between the Scheme’s flood maps and those published by SEPA, so although they have used two separate models, both are showing the same thing. The difference is the Scheme has the most accurate topographical survey data and therefore is more capable of representing the flow of water across the ground. CP further reports that decision making for the Scheme is defined by the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009. Ultimately, the Scheme must be presented to a full meeting of all councillors of East Lothian Council for a decision. CP notes the organisations RC has sighted will not be taking a decision on the Scheme because that is not the process outlined in the legislation, however those organisations will have a part to play as per their regulatory responsibilities. However, CP mentions as the Scheme is not yet designed they cannot definitively determine which pieces of legislation they will need to interact with and therefore what responsibilities each of these organisations will need to undertake, but as the project moves onwards this will become clear.
RC thanks CP for his response and understands he cannot be definitive at this time. RC further notes he looks forward to further discussions with CP and welcomes the opportunity to keep the dialogue going with the town and wider interests.
Midlothian Council – Edel Ryan
ER confirms both issues she was due to highlight have been covered in other updates. No other significant updates since last meeting.
RC notes at the previous meeting CB committed to making representations at a Scottish Government level about integrated catchment management, asks if CB has had the opportunity to have this discussion.
CB reports he received a response from Scottish Government a few days ago, which states they support integrated catchment area management. There is currently one being managed by the Forth Rivers Trust. CB explains he will circulate this with the group so everyone can see where the government is coming from.
RC mentions he is aware Forth Rivers Trust have been doing some electrofishing on the Esk but wasn’t aware of any wider work. RC notes it would be useful to see the Minister’s letter so he can pursue this further.
CB explains this isn’t a matter for this group to take up but is certainly something that should be pursued.
ASK adds Forth Rivers Trust are carrying out a Fisheries Management Plan for the Forth Catchment but wasn’t aware of any other projects.
DK notes she would like to thank everyone for their support on Scottish Water’s ‘Nature Calls’ campaign which is running for the next couple of months, they have reached out to a number of community councils who have been sharing the campaign.
ASK enquires if there has been a date confirmed for the next meeting.
BS confirms he is looking at a number of potential dates, hopes to have these shared with the group in the coming days.
CB thanks all for attending.
Meeting ended 11:15am
Esk River Improvement Group Meeting Minutes – 10am, Monday 24th January 2022, Microsoft Teams
Attendance: Ben Sutherland, Colin Beattie MSP, Jenny Gray, Paul Patterson, Nim Kibbler (Forth Rivers Trust), Pauline Crerar (Fisherrow Harbour Group), Lynn Crothers (East Lothian Council), Shona Grant (East Lothian Council), Conor Price (East Lothian Council), Gregor Moodie (East Lothian Council), Edith Cameron (Rosewell & District Community Council), Roger Crofts (Esk Valley Trust), Katrina Wilson (SEPA), Chris Gall (SEPA), Peter Finnie (SEPA), Ranald Lockhart (SEPA), Paul Butler (SEPA), Vicki White (SEPA), Claire Tochel (Fisherrow Harbour & Seafront Association), Steven Boon (Scottish Water), Scott Fraser (Scottish Water), Alison Baker (Forth District Salmon Fishery Board), Annette Larder (Coal Authority), Ann Stewart-Kmicha (Dalkeith & District Community Council), Anne Hyatt (Roslin and Bilston Community Council), Caroline Freeman (Newbattle Abbey College), Joy Godfrey (Eskbank and Newbattle Community Council), Derek Oliver (Midlothian Council).
Apologies: Philip Duncan (Musselburgh Racecourse)
CB welcomes the meeting and previous minutes were approved.
River Esk Pollution Incident – Lynn Crothers (East Lothian Council) and Katrina Wilson (SEPA).
LC confirms SEPA first became aware of the incident through notifications from the public of a discharge in the river and a strong smell in the area. SEPA attended on site on Friday 14th January, carried out sampling and traced the contamination up to the Craigie Burn. Investigation work was undertaken around the Old Craighall area in relation to demolition work carried out in the area, as well as ongoing construction work being conducted by Persimmon. SEPA have been following up a number of lines of enquiry in order to determine the source of the contamination, including witnesses who had seen tankers in the area perhaps discharging into the sewers. There is a live investigation which could lead to enforcement action from SEPA which means there are limitations on what further information they can provide to the group.
East Lothian Council also became aware of the incident on Friday afternoon and officers were out on-site throughout the weekend. On Sunday, East Lothian Council met with SEPA and Scottish Water to discuss the situation. At this stage, roles and responsibilities were able to be established, with East Lothian Council taking the key role in terms of the clean-up. East Lothian Council then engaged with a contractor with specialised spill clean experience who installed a number of booms in the watercourse, particularly in the Craigie Burn area. The SSPCA have also been on site and removed a number of birds to take them back to their wildlife centre for decontamination purposes. East Lothian Council also put up a number of signs along the waterway to advise the public to keep out of the water until the river has reached its normal level of water quality, as well as to tell the public not to interfere with the birds due to a high risk of avian flu.
SEPAs investigation remains ongoing and East Lothian Council are continuing to work with the contractor in terms of the clean-up. A tanker has also been on site and has extracted approximately 10 tons of pollution from the watercourse. LC explains that discussion with the contractor remain ongoing in regards to the rest of the clean-up process, but reports over the weekend suggest the booms in the watercourse are holding up well and managed to resist further contamination of the River Esk. East Lothian Council are continuing to meet with SEPA as well as public health colleagues in NHS Lothian to ensure the risks to public health are minimised and there have been multi-agency meetings to provide updates on a regular basis.
KW explains SEPA received reports before lunchtime on Friday and were onsite a few hours later to conduct an investigation. SEPA received intelligence which opened up a number of lines of enquiry, and throughout their investigations SEPA have been taking samples in order to verify or eliminate information they have received. SEPA have been working closely with ELC to share information and to provide updates to the public regarding the response to the incident. SEPA are continuing their investigations and are limited on what they can say at this time.
KW adds that whilst the ecological impact on the Craigie Burn has been significant, the impact on the River Esk has been less severe. The water samples SEPA are receiving confirm a broad mix of hydrocarbons, but due to a complex mix within the samples it is taking time to get a full analysis. SEPA have been working with ELC to share this information with contractors.
CB thanks LC and KW for their updates and wishes both the best of luck in finding out where the pollution this has come from and ensuring the culprits are dealt with.
CT states FHSA received a large number of reports from the public that were desperate to see action but faced significant difficulties in receiving information from SEPA and East Lothian Council regarding the response to the incident. CT mentions one of the team at FHSA calling the SEPA emergency helpline on Saturday morning for advice, but did not receive further communication from SEPA until 4pm on Saturday afternoon to confirm they will provide an update FHSA when they receive more information, but this is not to be expected until Monday. CT recognises there may have been a lot going on in the background, but believes the situation was managed poorly and further information was needed. CT adds the process of getting information out to the public needs to be improved.
NK adds Forth Rivers Trust received around 30 calls from people contacting them to highlight the incident, on which she directed them to contact SEPA’s pollution helpline. NK explains that due to not receiving updates from SEPA, rumours emerged that no one was responding to the incident and there was no sense of urgency. NK asks who is currently responsible for both the clean-up of the ecological impacts from the incident and the pollution material itself? If SEPA cannot find the perpetrator, who is responsible for the clean-up and covering the costs?
KW confirms that SEPA’s main role in a pollution incident is to investigate the source and who the perpetrator is. KW explains that the normal procedure for these situations is that the source of the pollution and the perpetrator are identified quickly, with the polluter covering the costs for the clean-up. When SEPA cannot find the polluter, they focus their efforts on the investigations, not the clean-up. However, KW notes on this occasion SEPA have worked with East Lothian Council over the weekend on the clean-up.
LC explains that East Lothian Council have been partaking in multi-agency meetings to provide information and updates, but there will be a point where they will have a cold debrief in which there will be a close examination of what happened and how things could be improved. LC notes she is aware there were issues raised regarding communications, which they will look at and discuss what improvements can be made should another scenario like this arise again in the future.
In response to NK, LC mentioned they are currently disentangling the legislation that is in place to make sure they know who is responsible for the costs for the incident. SEPA are a category 1 responder in these situations, however they may not be best equipped to deal with the clean-up and they do have the legislative powers to ask a public authority to take on the clean-up duties. LC adds that although East Lothian Council are currently fronting the costs for clean-up, this might not mean they are absorbing the full costs for the incident, if SEPA are able to trace the source and the perpetrator of the incident they could also recover costs from them.
NK reports there is a great deal of confusion from the public regarding where responsibilities lie. NK adds there is an element of environmental justice involved which means money and fairness will form a big part of the unpicking of the incident.
LC states they are in the early stages of trying to find the perpetrator and they will then be able look at issues relating to cost recovery.
NK explains she has been involved in a number of incidents in the past where it has not been possible to identify the perpetrator, or to extract the full sum of the money from the polluter through legal processes. NK notes it would be interesting to calculate how much this incident has cost and believes it is important to make this information public in order help to create a sense of transparency.
CT contributes that she hopes the coastal pollution will also be considered as part of the analysis of the incident.
LC mentions East Lothian Council Countryside Rangers have been working closely with colleagues in the RSPB to assess the impacts of the incident along the Fisherrow shorefront.
Scottish Water – Steven Boon and Scott Fraser
Mary Burn – small amount of rags identified which are being cleared up. Some spills identified from normal operations at CSO.
Benbught Burn – no issues identified.
Hardengreen – no issues identified.
Eastfield Pumping Station – cleaning work which has been planned is now being undertaken and will be completed in advanced of bathing season.
Grannies Park – manholes have now been extended by the PFI; Scottish Water are currently monitoring the impact.
Kill Burn – an issue reported on 30th December which was documented by Scottish Water as a category 3 environmental pollution incident. Sewage Response were sent out to clear the choke in the network. There was some discoloured water which was draining into the Kill Burn. The issue came from a manhole which was spilling from the David Wilson housing development, blockage coming from their drainage which connects into Scottish Water’s existing sewer. Issue was cleared by 31st December. There was a further choke on the 7th January and clean up was completed on the same day.
SF shares briefing on Scottish Water’s new customer campaign ‘Nature Calls’ relating to correct behaviours in the disposal of sanitary products. Scottish Water have been experiencing huge operational impacts on their network and more frequent discharges into rivers. Scottish Water have around 37,000 call outs a year from blockages in pipes in their network caused by the disposal of wipes and sanitary products, costing £6.5million of public money.
Scottish Water have been undertaking a large number of stakeholder briefings in preparation for the launch of the campaign on February 21st 2022. SF explains they have received largescale support from their customers for the campaign and they are pleased to hear that customers believe this is an issue Scottish Water should be taking forward. SF notes one of the aspects which has came out of the customer research is that 74% of people have stated that they never flush wipes down the toilet, which he reports is not an accurate representation of the actual behaviours of the public. There is also confusion amongst the public between ‘flushable’ and ‘fine to flush’ standards, the latter involving the testing of products to demonstrates that they do not contain plastics and will break down like toilet paper. The research has also highlighted that young females are unaware that sanitary products contain plastics and therefore should not be flushed down the toilet.
SF notes Scottish Water have been using social media adverts to increase awareness of the campaign. Scottish Water are also developing radio and television advertising which will run for 6-8 weeks from 21st February.
CB asks how successful the campaign has been to get manufacturers to drop the plastics element of these products.
SF comments there has been other work going on in the background in regards to the plastics elements of wet wipes and trying to remove them in order to get to a ‘fine to flush’ standard. Some retailers have stopped stocking flushable products unless they meet the ‘fine to flush’ standard. Also, improvements have been made in terms of labelling on packaging advising to not flush wipes.
JG asks if Scottish Water will be utilising platforms such as TikTok to increase awareness amongst young females regarding plastics within sanitary products.
SF states he understands the social media platforms Scottish Water are using is Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They are seeing good engagement on Instagram; however he recognises this may not be as effective as TikTok for targeting younger populations.
JG mentions there may be a way to invite young people to make their own TikToks on this topic. If they have a good following, then all of their followers will see it.
SF agrees and notes JG has been very successful in the past on raising awareness of these issues by using different channels to get information out to the public.
ASK mentions she would like to clarity on the issue of a burst Scottish Water mains which occurred on Thursday 20th January and led to a significant number of school children being sent home. States the community would be interested to know how the burst mains in Newtongrange could result in a number of different parts of Midlothian also being impacted.
SF explains that due to the burst coming from a large diameter main this caused problems for a large area. SF confirms Scottish Water did manage to get supply working again quickly and were also using a tanker to pump water into the network to keep schools open but was aware that some schools did have to close for at least part of the day. SF confirms he will check his records and will provide further details with the group after the meeting.
SF reports there was an announcement made by Scottish Government Environment and Land Reform Minister Mairi McAllan in December on the Scottish Water’s Urban Waters Route Map, which is approximately £500 million of investment in urban waters with the aim of improving the performance of CSOs and its sewer network. SF adds he will share a link with members to further information on this matter on the Scottish Water website.
Forth Rivers Trust – Nim Kibbler
No significant updates from last meeting. NK notes they are in the process of launching a project in Spring which is being finalised with partners. Information has been sent to a number of community groups should they wish to discuss the launch of the project.
Coal Authority – Annette Larder
AL notes funding for the minewater treatment scheme was approved by BEIS late last year and now the tenders for the design and construction of the treatment scheme are due back on Monday 31st January. This will determine how long the process will take and how much it is likely to cost.
Coal Authority has appointed a new Stakeholder Engagement Manager who has been organising an informative event which will take place on January 31st to update the public on the development of the treatment scheme.
Coal Authority has the intention to submit plans to the local planning authority in the coming weeks. The planners will review Coal Authority’s proposals and have the ability to impose conditions to ensure compliance with all relevant legislation and guidance. AL explains the Coal Authority has rights to develop certain aspects of the scheme which are close to the mines without having to submit for planning, however they do need to comply with all the requirements of planning and Environmental Impact Assessments. The plans which Coal Authority will put forward are not exactly what will be built, but through the design and development process they will seek to minimise the impact on residents and the environment by improving sustainability as much as possible. There will be further opportunity for people to review the plans to provide comments which Coal Authority will seek to take on board in the design.
On the chemistry of the minewater, the total iron concentration has been around 46-47 mg/litre. AL mentions the numbers do fluctuate, but there is not a significant trend, although it is slightly higher than 3 months ago. The manganese is relatively constant at approximately 5 mg/litre. The Manganese, Nickel and Zinc are all below the EQS level.
Coal Authority has been continuing to work with SEPA to progress towards making an application for the plant and are currently working through some of the details and challenges. AL explains both the applications and the receipt of the license from SEPA will be another key milestone for the Coal Authority.
Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) – Katrina Wilson
Eastfield Pumping Station: Scottish Water has identified an issue with silt accumulation in the wet wells which was restricting the pass forward flows. A Partial clean was carried out prior to 2021 bathing water season which improved the pumping capacity. Post-bathing season Scottish Water has been working with SEPA via The Eastfield Waste Water Pumping Station Operational Group in order to secure further improvements, involving survey work being carried out and a full clean of the wet wells also taking place. All further works will be carried out prior to the bathing water season this year. SEPA is satisfied that Scottish Water has taken all the necessary steps to maintain compliance with the license conditions. Enforcement takes many forms and whilst SEPA have not taken formal enforcement action SEPA have been working with Scottish Water to provide advice and guidance. SEPA are comfortable they have taken the correct enforcement approach given the circumstances, with the goal being of improving the pumping station.
Fisherrow Sands: SEPA have been doing out of season monitoring including investigative samples which have been taken weekly for a period of four weeks, primarily focusing on the Brunstane Burn but also some from the River Esk to identify further pollution sources that may be affecting the bathing water.
CT asks for clarity on whether the work will bring the pumping station up to the license requirement standard.
KW states the work that is being carried out will aim to bring compliance with the license SEPA has issued, but there is still the investigative works so SEPA cannot guarantee when that will take place.
SB notes that Scottish Water have been open and transparent with the group about the work they have been doing. Their goal is to bring the pumping station up to a point in which it is as good as they can make it, this is being done by bringing the wet wells up to full capacity and identifying if any equipment needs refurbished or improved. SB explains that in report from WGM there is a misunderstanding as to how the pumping station is operating. The report speaks about the downstream rising main not being fit for purpose which is not the case and was misrepresented in the report.
SB mentions there was an FOI request made last year in which he provided all of Scottish Water’s telemetry data for the past two years to demonstrate that the pumping station passes forward the flows that it is asked and it doesn’t regularly spill. Once all of the work on the pumping station is completed, they will keep a close eye on what flows the pumping station can do and whether it can do the full flow in its license. SB notes this is difficult to prove as the pumping station has never been asked to do that flow before, but it has done everything it has been asked to do and this is represented in the spill data which has been provided. Once work is done Scottish Water will perform a drop test in which they will allow the wells to fill up and then turn on all the pumps to see what the flow rate they can get from them all. SB adds he does not have any issues with bringing the results of these tests back to the group.
CT recognises this is a complicated situation, but as a non-expert the Eastfield report was very depressing particularly given Fisherrow has been on the poor water quality rating for around seven years. It came across in the report that the pumping station was not well maintained and therefore she wants to know that the work that is being done will improve the water quality. CT mentions when this issue is discussed it seems to be in a casual and positive manner, but she would just like to see that it is being taken seriously and that there are consequences for failures. CT asks if the information provided in the FOI could be shared with her.
SB notes Scottish Water do take this matter very seriously and have been working to get all their assets up to the standards they need to be. SB recognises the report seems to paints the picture that the pumping station does regularly spill but this is not the case and Scottish Water keep a close eye on how it is operating. The report does not represent what the pumping station does well which is why they are monitored with telemetry.
CB concludes and asks SB to keep everyone informed on progress at the pumping station.
ASK enquires as to whether the information in regards to the FOI at Eastfield Pumping Station can also be sent to BS to be circulated with the group.
East Lothian Council – Shona Grant
East Lothian Council officials met with SEPAs Contaminated Land Specialist in December regarding the former landfill site at Newhailes. SEPA are currently reviewing the site investigation and risk assessment which were undertaken in 2006/2007. A sampling strategy has been established which will identify various parameters and sampling points. SG notes she is hoping the sampling will begin soon and explains the aim is to produce an updated risk assessment after the sampling has been completed, with SEPA also looking at doing tidal monitoring in the area.
Musselburgh Flood Protection Scheme – Conor Price
CP shares presentation on general progress of the scheme and how natural flood solutions are being incorporated into the design.
CP notes at the Shorthope Street bridge has previously been impacted by blockages within the bridges when debris gets stuck, but also by the sea levels. If there is a low sea level then the water can race away, however if there is a high sea level or a storm surge then that will further elevate the levels within the town.
CP provides image of the Goosegreen footbridge in 2013 through which Council demountable defences stopped flooding of urban area. CP explains this event was caused by the sea backing up the River Esk due to a storm surge on the Firth of Forth and property would have flooded if not for council intervention.
The team have been undertaking a massive consultation exercise to gather the thoughts of the town. Seven meetings have already taken place, with 1050 hand delivered letters by a team member and the rest being posted out to the public. Within those letter drops, 370 substantial discussions which could have taken up to one hour of time from a team member plus all information from the discussions have been logged.
The Scheme is not yet designed, and the process remains ongoing. The design will not be locked until it is approved under the Flood Risk Management Act. There is not currently an estimated date for it being locked, but it will not be until 2023.
The Scheme will have an Environmental Impact Assessment, as is required in the legislation. An environmental screening and scoping has already taken place to identify which areas would need to be looked at and environmental surveys are also being undertaken to understand the environmental situation of the town. At this stage the design has not been concluded due to the consultation process being ongoing, and therefore they cannot undertake an Environmental Impact Assessment until they are aware of what the design is. However, this assessment will be undertaken when the consultation process is completed, and it will be published.
There will be natural solutions incorporated into the Scheme, as there are already a number of natural solutions already included in the design which they have looked at and they are confident will work. They are also looking at a number of other possible natural solutions and will try to map as many into the Scheme as possible.
CP explains he is not yet able to confirm if Musselburgh can be protected using the sand dune system. They have previously looked at this option but did not believe it could work and therefore it was not included in the Preferred Scheme, however the Project Team was challenged in the Mountjoy Local Area Consultation meeting to review the new data available by Dynamic Coast and their approach to flood protection at St Andrews. The Scheme is now engaging with Dynamic Coast and their partner Glasgow University to access to their new data and modelling tool. They will now do a further assessment of the potential for this option and will update the town on the results of their new analysis.
CP mentions he is aware of an incorrect understanding that the Project Team and East Lothian Council are planning to open the Electric Bridge as a main road bridge and refutes this claim on behalf of the Scheme and the Council. The Scheme did commit to replacing the Electric Bridge as a like for like structure. The bridge was originally owned by Scottish Power, however as the Council have now taken ownership of the bridge they are capable of reconsidering how to approach the Electric Bridge and will bring this conversation to the town in the next stage of the Local Area Consultations.
At the next stage of the consultation process they will be combining the seven areas into two new groups – an ‘Esk Group’ which will meet on the 8th of February, as well as a ‘Coastal Group’ which will meet on the 9th of February. A whole town meeting will take place on 8th of March in which they will invite everyone to come together and understand everything the Project Team have learned on the consultation journey.
The Scheme is currently ‘off programme’, which means there is no contract programme in place due to the delays incurred due to COVID-19 and due to the commitment of the Council to consult the town. CP notes if they locked the consultation to one or two months then this wouldn’t be true consultation, therefore they have left this open ended so they can properly understand what the town is saying.
There will be a major public exhibition for the entire town at an appropriate point later in the design process when the design has sufficiently evolved. Only after the design has been brought to a satisfactory point will the Project Team go to East Lothian Council to ask for permission to begin the next stage through which the Scheme gets approved under the legislation. It is only when it is approved under the legislation when the design will be locked.
The Project Team are in the process of meeting a number of individuals and groups who have key information to be provided. The only group they are yet to confirm a meeting with is with Musselburgh Action Group and hope to organise this as soon as possible in order to better understand their concerns.
CP adds he is aware some of the Scheme’s communication tools such as its website are not yet sufficient and is committed to getting the website up to date, including all of the relevant historical documents, before the next stage of the consultations.
After the next consultation meetings in February and March the Project Board within the Council structure will meet to determine what to do next. By spring the Project Team hope to have a revise programme and clarity pertaining to the next steps thereafter.
CP announces they are now due to publish the Scheme’s flood maps for the first time. The Scheme has also recently received approval from SEPA of the process and approach it has taken, further to four years of working with SEPA to get to that point. The maps they will publish are not vastly different from the maps SEPA which are already published on their website, or from the Scheme’s maps which were previously published in their exhibitions in 2019. However, they are more sophisticated and accurate than any other map that has been published before, and therefore the Project Team will use those maps as the basis for the design.
CP mentions there has been a clear desire from the town that the Scheme should be as natural as possible. They must engineer solutions which are an appropriate use of public money and which are correct for reducing flood risk. The team are ongoing in attempting to understand how they deliver natural solutions within the Scheme. CP comments the most ‘natural’ solution would be to abandon the built environment and to return that land to the flood plain of the river or the sea, which would mean in reality the abandonment of parts of the town to give the space back to the river, but they are not intending to do this as the Council considers the abandonment of Musselburgh and its infrastructure as unacceptable. However, the design is not locked and if there is a major desire from the people to abandon parts of the town then Project Team will look at this again, but CP is unaware of any desire to do this and therefore this natural solution is being discounted by the Scheme.
CP explains the town must have protections along the river corridor and along the foreshore. If there were to be no defences along the Esk then all the water in a bankfull event must be kept somewhere else, therefore the question is whether natural interventions reduce it, and whether they will reduce it sufficiently. CP explains there must be something to separate the ‘wet’ environment (sea/river) from the ‘dry’ environment (town), but the form of that separation is yet to be confirmed. On the River Esk, they can reduce the water coming down to the town through upstream management or natural options within the catchment. There is currently an ongoing process of engagements with Professor Roger Crofts, SEPA and Dundee University to try and determine use of natural flood management solutions, which CP will update the group on in March. From a coastal perspective, defences must be on the foreshore and will consist of some barrier to keep the water out, which could take the form of a wall, embankment or sand dunes.
CP notes they have always looked to implement and develop natural solutions into the Scheme, for example it has always been their intention to put in a debris catcher to stop the debris getting to Musselburgh and blocking the bridges, potentially somewhere upstream of the A1 Bridge. They have also been looking at modifying Scottish Water reservoirs in the South Esk catchment in order to hold and capture water before it could get to the town.
CB thanks CP for bringing the group up to date on progress of the Scheme.
RC thanks CP for his comprehensive update and welcomes that the Scheme have been consulting more with the town. RC urges CP not to get involved in semantics about nature-based solutions, noting he has never heard of anyone talking about abandoning Musselburgh. RC adds he is pleased CP is consulting with the experts at Dundee and Glasgow Universities regarding coastal defences and is looking forward to his discussions with him.
JG mentions she has read previously that the marine environment requires nutrient from trees coming down the river and into the sea, enquires as to whether this will be prevented as a result of the Scheme.
CP comments that RC has challenged the Scheme on this issue which is no problem, as they are taking forward a Scheme in consultation and without challenge it is impossible for the Scheme to grow and be tailored to the town. He also looks forward to his conversation with RC and the Scheme will continue to connect to any expertise that is available and report back to the town.
In response to JG, CP notes that he is aware of the need for dead wood in ecosystems, but today there is very little debris that make its way to the sea as they get stuck within the bridges and weirs within Musselburgh and Midlothian. The Flood Protection Scheme is looking to replace bridges which are specifically prone to blockage, however the Scheme are incapable of altering the Rennie and Roman bridges due to their significant structures and both have grade A and B protection listing under Historical Environment legislation. As a result, they will remain a problem for blockage. The Environmental Impact Assessment will also pick up the impact of anything that they choose to do, including on this issue.
CP further reports the Scheme will continue to lead on the delivery of invasive non-native species reduction within the Esk corridor in partnership with Inveresk Village Society. They are currently making their plan and will update the group at the next meeting.
Midlothian Council – Derek Oliver
No significant updates from last meeting.
EC mentions that Rosewell & District Community Council are scheduling a clean-up of the Shiel Burn on Saturday 30th April and are in talks Crown Estate Scotland to gain the necessary permissions to do it.
DO explains he is happy to coordinate a waste collection uplift of anything collected.
EC states she will email DO separately to discuss further.
RC shares with the group his proposition that an action plan be drawn up for the Esk Valley. When looking at the wider context of the catchment, considerations should be made for establishing a progressive approach that seeks to meet a wide range of environment and ecological objectives relating to climate change, flood risk, biodiversity improvements, landscape amenity as well as public health and wellbeing. RC adds that in the context of the recently published River Basin Management Plan 2021-27 we should be looking at an action plan to be implemented over the coming years for improving the management of the catchment as a whole. RC notes that by making things more ‘natural’ we can in turn capture more carbon in soil, restore peatlands and wetlands and plant more native trees. RC comments there is government money available to assist this endeavour, such as Nature Restoration Fund, tree planting support from Forest Scotland and the Agri-Environmental Programme.
RC adds it is not for this group to take this forward as the project would require a host institution, however he has raised it as he believes there are wider issues about the whole catchment which are relevant for this group.
CB explains that members may need time to consider this proposal as there is a question as to how this could be achieved, and who would be responsible for taking on such a project.
CP notes this proposal does merit further consideration, mentions that it might be a question CB could raise with the Scottish Government. CP explains there is perhaps an opportunity for Scottish Government to start bringing together these key drivers in a way that isn’t done in specific projects.
CB states he is happy to make the necessary representations at a governmental level.
RC mentions he is please CB will take this to government, as he believes this is not a bureaucratic question, but a political one.
ASK states she is aware of a pollution issue just below Elginhaugh Bridge on the North Esk, notes the issue relates to iron ore coming from an old mine. ASK further reports the messaging by Coal Authority regarding a Bilston Glen informative event has led to a people in the local area perceiving the event as only relating to members of Loanhead.
AL recognises the point made by ASK and states that most of the literature is now referring to a treatment scheme in Dalkeith, with the presentation material next week also trying to reset that perception.
ASK thanks AL for her response, asks for clarity in relation to the Egress of minewater just below the Elginhaugh Bridge on the North Esk.
AL states she will contact ASK to discuss separately but explains it is her understanding this is a known discharge which is longstanding and is being monitored, asks if PB he can clarify.
PB confirms this is a longstanding minewater discharge. They are aware of the issue and do not believe the chemistry has changed but will add further detail at next meeting.
CB thanks all for attending.
Meeting ended 12:00noon.
Esk River Improvement Group Meeting Minutes – 10am, Monday 15th November 2021, Microsoft Teams
Attendance: Ben Sutherland, Colin Beattie MSP, Jenny Gray, Steven Boon (Scottish Water), Scott Fraser (Scottish Water), Katrina Wilson (SEPA), Peter Finnie (SEPA), Ranald Lockhart (SEPA), Paul Butler (SEPA), Chris Gall (SEPA), Tom Mills (Coal Authority), Anne Hyatt (Roslin and Bilston Community Council), Edel Ryan (Midlothian Council), Remko Plooij (Dalkeith Country Park), Claire Tochel (Fisherrow Harbour & Seafront Association), Jonathan Louis (Forth District Salmon Fishery Board), Ann Stewart-Kmicha (Dalkeith & District Community Council), Edith Cameron (Rosewell & District Community Council), Caroline Freeman (Newbattle Abbey College), Pauline Crerar (Fisherrow Harbour Group), John Oldman (Esk Valley Trust), Joy Godfrey (Eskbank and Newbattle Community Council), Philip Duncan (Musselburgh Racecourse).
Apologies: Shona Grant (East Lothian Council), Conor Price (East Lothian Council).
CB welcomes the meeting and previous minutes were approved.
Item 1: Scottish Water – Steven Boon
Lord Ancrum Woods – Inspections have been undertaken following storm events. There have been signs of ragging as water has died down, clean-up operation is in process. Nothing occurring out of the ordinary, but clean-up of anything seen will ensure this doesn’t get worse.
CB explains that wipes going into the river are a big problem, asks SB if there is any way of capturing these wipes in some way?
SB notes that in a previous meeting there was a discussion on the potential for looking at a powered screen at Lord Ancrum Wood. This would have much more capacity in the chamber and would still allow for some spill of very dilute sewage or storm water but would catch the material in the power screen. SB explains there is a big job to do out at Lord Ancrum Wood and probably a small sewer out there where they normally wouldn’t do something like that, however there is a project in the pipeline he was looking at last week for them to look at something like that, but that would be as far as they would take things out there.
CB asks SB if he can provide a description of a power screen.
SB explains that out there currently is a small manhole chamber with an overflow spill, it would come down and spill over into the sea and out into the burn at Lord Ancrum Wood. A powered screen would be much bigger, and would have a much bigger chamber, almost the size of a small shed. They would put a much bigger screen in which would be about a meter tall with brushes in it that would go round and catch all the rags in the screen and brush it back into the channel. The difference between what is out there and now and what that would be a bigger screen to capture all the rags, so it gives a better chance of capturing everything. Also, with it being powered you don’t stand a chance of it blending up and then overtopping so the powered screen basically keeps it clean as you go.
CB asks SB that given the frequency of which Mary Burn appears in front of this group, would it not be more cost-effective to put in that sort of solution?
SB states it probably would not be, as its easier for SW to go out there and install some of the things they have been such as an event monitor to check it after every storm and then perform a clean up afterwards. It would be difficult for them to install something like that out there in regard to creating a chamber, getting power and water supply to it. About £1million project to get something like that out there and hasn’t cost SW anywhere near that for the clean ups they are doing. However, that wouldn’t necessarily take away from them doing it, as it is not necessarily a money decision but rather what they believe is the best thing to do. SB notes that if doing things like cleaning the sewer plus regular inspections keeps on top of it then that’s the right thing to do rather than creating a big chamber with a powered stream of electricity, which would have an embedded cost of carbon plus the actual cost of carbon for doing all that. They will look at what the best environmental thing is to do out there whilst also keeping on top of the rags that make its way into the environment. SB explains that from what the guys have seen out there this week it is nothing like what we have seen out there in the past, so the work they have been doing out there has been making a big difference.
Benbught Burn – No issues identified.
Hardengreen CSO – Continuing with cleaning and inspections. No new issues identified.
Ochre Burn – Issues have now been resolved.
Eastfield Pumping Station – The plan is to do the cleaning out there starting this month, waiting for a weather window to get this done. A contractor has been lined up to complete the work. The work entails inspecting the pieces of kit, not the pumps but the isolation penstocks and the chambers themselves to ensure there is not a build-up of ragging. What they have seen in the past is that due to the volume of rags the pumps weren’t getting them all away, meaning some were settling out at the bottom of the wet well. They will do a regular clean, but also want to get in and do a full clean to get it back to what it would have been when it was built.
Elm Row, Lasswade - Had issues out there causing a spill, that now been resolved. Spill was caused by line being heavily silted and large boulder which has now been removed.
Grannies Park – Modelling out there has now been completed and the model has been updated. What we have done out there is to increase the height of some of the manholes to change the hydraulic profile. In high flows it was spilling out the top of the manhole, so what we have been doing is to increase the hydraulic profile which would then hopefully pass that through the sewer as opposed to the top of the manhole lids. We haven’t gone as far as sealing the manholes because we want to see if this makes a difference first, but if not, we would then look to seal the covers on top of that.
Morrison’s Haven Sea Defences – Sent a network analyst down there and were seeing some long stringy material coming off them. SF notes that SW is not blaming any issues that they are seeing on beaches as being from the sea defences, but whether we can help out with stopping any of that being washed over the sea defences, going out to sea and then being washed up on beaches.
SF notes they have seen increased public awareness in combined sewers system and how they operate following some conversations in the media. The whole industry is talking about the future and the potential of smart network and how we can do enhanced monitoring for the sewer network to predict long term plans. SF notes there is a need to recognise that the answer isn’t always to build more assets but more sustainable surface water management to combat the issues we have seen with extreme weather events. SW does plan to launch a public campaign in the new year which they will have more information to share with this group at next meeting.
SF notes that SW did commit to providing information regarding what our reservoir teams do in terms of operations of scours which can impact the flows in the Esk. He explains they have a few operations coming up so after the meeting he will send a note to everyone in the group.
CB queries if there is any progress or consideration on rebranding of sanitary wipe packaging, so they clearly explain that these wipes are not biodegradable if disposed incorrectly.
SF notes there is progress being made in that space, there is particular interest around the plastic element. SW supports the ‘fine to flush’ industry standard about how things such as wet wipes can break down and there has been monitoring of retailers as to whether they support ‘fine to flush’.
CT asks in relation to Fisherrow whether regular sewage debris is being recorded as an ‘ongoing issue’. Should they be reporting new incidents every time something new is found on the beach?
SF explains that if there is an incident it should be reported, SW will then get someone out there to look at it.
JG asks what can be done to prevent regular spillages of raw sewages on Newbattle Road? Notes that there were three incidents reported in September.
CB questions if these issues have been reported to SW.
JG states that she believes they were reported.
SF says he will look into the issue and will get back to JG.
CB queries JG where exactly on Newbattle Road the issues were reported.
JG notes it was near Ancrum Road.
Forth River Trust – Nim Kibbler
NK states they responded to an incident near Lothianbridge Weir two weeks ago which was posted on Facebook and had raised significant concern amongst the community. Issue was caused by an old sewer pipe discharging sewage off 3ft rockface, went to meet the landowner but he had a heart attack whilst on site, they are waiting for him to come out hospital before following up.
RL asks if NK reported the issue to SW.
NK confirms that this has been reported to SEPA as a pollution incident, but not to SW. It was her colleagues that handled the issue, she was not present for the visit.
Coal Authority – Tom Mills
TM notes that approval was given last week for the funding for the mine water treatment scheme from BEIS. TM reported in the last meeting that this was the big next step and has now been achieved.
CB congratulates CA on this achievement.
TM notes they are now moving on to the next step, which is the design and build tender. This is the package of works for a design and to establish a contractor to put this in place. That is going out shortly, there will be a tender period so they are expecting the returns to coming back around the end of January and a contract will then be awarded out as soon we have evaluated the tender process.
TM states there has been some early works in terms of the planning, and they are still looking at submitting for prior approval for permitted developments. TM notes they just have some final bits of information to pull together before they can submit.
TM explains one other big thing they are doing is surrounding stakeholder engagement. He notes CA has recently recruited and started a new Stakeholder Engagement Manager who is going to be working quite a bit on this Scheme. They are hoping to be far more visible within the community and amongst their partners, so you should start to see a programme of communications in terms of our plans for the Scheme by the new year.
TM notes they are trying to see what enabling and clearance work can be done in the new year, but the reality is that majority of the work will begin around springtime and will progress over the summer period. Once they get the final programme details, they will be able to report back to the group with a target date for when the Scheme can be commissioned.
TM explains in terms of the chemistry of the mine water, CA have been continuing to monitor the outfall and the chemistry. The Iron levels have been steady at approximately 40-41 milligrams per litre which is a little bit lower than what we saw a few months ago. The manganese levels are currently around 4.7 milligrams per litre.
TM notes that overall, great news about the funding and they will be able to move forward with some security now that funding is there to build the scheme.
CB asks whether the funding includes putting resources on-the-ground to manage the implementation?
TM notes that this is not additional funding but money that was within their overall pot from Government that required approval due to size of investment. Resources are already in place, CA already has Project Mangers and a supply chain for the design work and once the Scheme is operational we have a team of operational staff.
ASK states she is concerned about the carbon footprint that such a plant might have, would be good to see innovative technology being involved.
TM explains that when looking at the different options a lot of consideration was placed on the carbon footprint. There is no denying that the Scheme will require power and chemical usage, so within the scope of work we are asking our contractors to come up with innovative ideas about how we can reduce our carbon footprint and how we can incorporate this into the Scheme.
CB questions if TM is aware of how long it might be for the Scheme to be up and running before the impact on the river would be reversed.
TM states that as soon as treatment of mine water begins there will be an improved water quality, however what takes longer will be the removal of the orange staining on the river bed, so once we take the iron out that won’t be added to. Once they get some heavy flows that will slowly remobilise and clear through the iron staining. You do tend to see a quick visible improvement, however in terms of how long it takes for the ecology to recover, that can take a much longer time.
CB asks whether it will be CA or SEPA that will be doing the monitoring as the river returns to a degree of health?
TM says CA will monitor performance of Scheme and the water quality that is being discharged, SEPA will do the continued monitoring of the river, water quality downstream and ecology.
Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) – Ranald Lockhart
CB notes he has circulated the letter back from Scottish Government regarding septic tanks which he would like to discuss during this part of the agenda.
RL notes SEPA have been to number of complaints out on the Esk and have been working with SW to get those rectified. They have also been doing a number of inspections on the Esk, probably 7 or 8 storm works. These are attached to the sewer and take the initial flood event when storms come through. They’ve been out to see how those are doing and what work has been done to get these up to standard.
CB asks for progress on how SEPA are recovering from the hacking.
KW states that progress has been slow, but they are continuing to build back and get the systems and data available that had been lost and building it back together into our work. Recently there was published reviews from independent experts on the cyber attack which are all available on SEPA’s website. This is was to help SEPA and others to learn from the cyber-attack.
CB questions as far as your day-to-day operations if SEPA back to normal or not yet.
KW notes that there is still work arounds in order to do the day job and believes there will be for quite some time. They are still able to operate but can sometimes cause a delay if the systems or the data that was previously available is not in place.
PF adds that the SEPA did not need to publish the reports but did so because they wanted others in government and the wider business sector to also learn from their painful experience.
CB states that on the issue of septic tanks, he believes that there appears to be something missing here, as it seems fundamentally wrong that there is any discharge into the river that is not properly monitored. CB notes that he is aware that some septic tanks are registered, but there are others that are not and perhaps that has been the case for many years. A coupled of questions arise, what would the purpose of registration be and how would that fit in with monitoring the health of the river, what would the costs be and what is SEPAs opinion on all of this?
CG says that registration is a requirement, but the focal point is around conveyancing of properties. So, what do we do when tax or registered? Well that goes into our wider knowledge base of activities around catchments that have the potential to be impacting. CG notes that for costs, he doesn’t know whether it is worked out on a cost recovery basis or not, but he knows for certain it is around £100 for septic tank registration at this current time.
CB asks what SEPAs view is on registration. He notes that despite registration being mandatory many can slip through the gaps. At time of conveyancing they have to register, but there must be many are not registered at all.
CG states that any that aren’t registered at the point of conveyancing, if SEPA come up to these because they are aware of a problem being reported, that is the opportunity for those to be registered as well and for them to have that conversation. There is no avoiding that necessity if they have to deal with these householders over a problematic tank.
CB states at what point do we say that is enough septic tanks that the river can take.
CG notes there are no recorded pressures on the Esk at the moment and there is modelling work that goes on to decide that, they are always trying to improve on how that is done and if it got to the point where we were seeing that septic tanks were causing a pressure they would go and explore that in more detail with householders.
CB questions how they would know if septic tanks were the cause of the problem.
CG explains that work can go into looking at the land use, even if we don’t have the registrations. SEPA can then get a sense of the apportionment of the impact to farming, to other rural activities, to septic tanks and to sewage works. That work is quite sophisticated, and they are trying to improve on that over time.
CB states that he presumes that some farmers will spread slurry and with rain some of that will find its way into the water course.
CG says that if that happens, they will deal with that too.
NK questions if SEPA currently has the relevant data on where the septic tanks are on the Esk, or if that was lost as a result of the cyber-attack.
CG says they do have a good record of registered septic tanks, but they can’t speak for the completeness of that. However, they could certainly try and find out more for the next meeting.
CB states that unless you are actually cited on the registration, then SEPA wouldn’t be able to meaningfully say there is ‘X’ amount of septic tanks that are not registered, because they just don’t know.
CG says that the modelling attempts to get above the knowledge of whether each one is registered by looking at the land use and the connection of properties to bigger settlements that will be on sewers vs isolated properties that are likely not. It looks at the bigger picture and tries to establish what is the likelihood of apportioning an impact to that number of septic tanks in the catchment.
CB states that is difficult to know how big an issue this is and whether we should make a major issue of it with the Government.
CT asks on Eastfield Pumping Station, whether SEPA has taken any action against SW after it was revealed by an external contractor that SW had not been reaching its licensing requirement. She believes that SEPA meeting its obligation on this issue is important. Will there be any sanctions taken?
CG states that he was not sighted in regard to the particular licensing requirements being discussed.
CT explains it was in the last briefing note from SW and SEPA about the situation at Fisherrow and the continued poor water quality.
KW states that she will need to take that away and ask internally if any sanctions are being taken.
KW notes that she also has an updated regarding the next Fisherrow Sands Improvement updated briefing note. She explains there was due to be another one issued but does not have a date for that yet as it is linked to the wider bathing water classification announcement. There will be another one issued but can’t guarantee whether it will be the end of this year or the beginning of next year.
CG states that in relation to the septic tank discussion, he would be happy to invite a colleague to come along to the next meeting that’s involved in the science and policy side of the septic tank strategy in Scotland.
CB states that this would be a good idea and explains that this would be an opportunity to decide if this is a major issue or not.
KW states she has been given an updated on the Water Environment Fund. She notes SEPA need to clearly understand the structural integrity of the weirs in the Esk before deciding how to spend significant public funds to improve fish passage, they recognise the appetite for progress but there is a process to be followed to make best use of the funds. Structural integrity surveys will take place in Montague Bridge and Iron Mills weir on the North Esk, and Dalkeith weir on the South Esk this winter. It is hoped that the results will be reviewed by the end of Q4 in 2021/2022. Until these surveys have taken placed and the results have been reviewed, SEPA are not in the position to give further details about how and when they can move forward with fish passage projects.
KW also provides an update on the reservoir releases for the fish ecology, notes that SEPA are not recommending any additional autumn releases from Rosebery reservoir because there is greater benefit to fish ecology from extra releases in the spring, meaning the reservoir needs to fill during the autumn and winter to allow this to happen.
East Lothian Council – Shona Grant
CB states that SG was not able to attend the meeting, however he has received an update which is as follows:
“Sample results have come back for the Fisherrow Beach Discharge. The Council’s Contaminated Land Officer has sent an email on to SEPA and has suggested a regular monitoring programme for the discharge. We are awaiting further communication from SEPA and should be in a position to share further details thereafter”
CB asks if SEPA wishes to comment on the update.
KW states that SEPA’s contaminated land experts have offered to support East Lothian Council with the discharge limits at the former landfill but doesn’t know if East Lothian Council has said they will take up that help.
East Lothian Council Flood Prevention Scheme – Conor Price
CB states that he has received some constituents writing to him regarding issues such as that natural defences not being incorporated into the scheme, issues with communication and the consultation process. CB also reports that he has been sent a substantial document from CP before the meeting which he hopes he will be able to share with the group.
ASK states that the disappointed that the slides presented at September’s meeting were not able to be shared.
BS notes that he has not yet been further communication regarding the presentation slides but will circulate these when received.
CB explains that in the email he received from CP there were a number of attachments one of the documents does appear to say ‘presentation slide’ but was not sure if this is the same presentation.
CB also notes he is disappointed that CP has been unable to attend as it is a big issue in Musselburgh as well as potentially having a significant impact on the river.
PC states that she has also received an email from CP and believes quite a few other people have also, so thinks it must be acceptable to circulate.
CB notes that the information might be something to discuss at the next meeting as the issue will run for quite some time.
RP explains that he is meeting CP next week to talk about the location of a debris catcher which he can update on in due course.
Midlothian Council – Edel Ryan
No significant updates from last meeting and no reports from any other service across the authority to feed into this group.
CB asks if there have been any issues in regard to pollution and so forth in the Midlothian area?
ER states that she is not aware of any issues raised since the last meeting, so unless there is any that the community groups wish to highlight there is nothing that has come up as significant.
EC states they are hopefully Rosewell village are looking to organise a clean-up of the Sheil Burn next April due to debris falling down the sides of the slopes and into the river, but has faced complications as the land is owned by the Crown Estate, asks if ER could provide any assistance.
ER states she is happy to help, notes if it is not directly within their service she can signpost to the correct person within the Authority. ER also notes that if the material is making its way physically into the water SEPA may be interested in that as well in terms of the pollution of the water course.
EC notes that the debris consists of physical objects such as lawn mowers and tractor tyres not chemical pollutants.
ER says that she will pick this up directly with EC and is happy to take this forward.
CB states that Crown Estates are not exempt from the normal requirements in terms of pollution and so on.
EC states it is difficult to get in contact with the right people to get permission to do anything as the Council can’t help to uplift stuff as it’s private land, and the Crown Estate says they aren’t sure if they can help because it would require public money.
ER says they are happy to have a look at this issue and see if there is anything they can do from their point of view to take this forward.
CB states that he can assist with the Crown Estate if anyone in the group needs help.
ASK states that they could try approaching Richard Callander who is the Queen’s Lord Lieutenant who may be interested in helping.
CB states that if Crown Estate land he won’t have much locus over this, however the Scottish Government does.
CB thanks all for attending.
Meeting ended 11:00am.
Esk River Improvement Group Meeting Minutes – 10am, 13th September 2021, Microsoft Teams
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.
Esk River Improvement Group Meeting Minutes – 11am, 25th June 2021, Microsoft Teams
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.
Esk River Improvement Group Meeting - Minutes – 10am, 15th March 2021, Microsoft Teams
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.
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