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
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