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
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