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.