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.
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