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
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