SEPA investigation finds iron pollution turned water orange

  10 March 2021
Historic mine workings have been confirmed as the contamination source that caused water discolouration in two burns near St Andrews.
Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) officers investigated the pollution incident, took samples, and carried out analysis at their laboratories in North Lanarkshire.
Both Claremont Burn and Kinness Burn were turned bright orange when mine water containing naturally occurring iron was released following heavy rain. 
The investigation team believe the contamination was a short-term issue with limited environmental impact.
Paul Butler, mining sector lead at SEPA, said:

“We would like to thank members of the public for reporting the recent pollution incident in the Kinness Burn.
“The discolouration in the Claremont Burn and Kinness Burn was caused by iron and was associated with historic mine workings in the area.
“SEPA officers attended the location to investigate the cause of the pollution and undertake monitoring. There was no evidence of ongoing discolouration at the time of the visit. The event appears to have been a short-term issue with limited environmental impact.
“Water from mine workings contains naturally occurring metals, such as iron, produced from the mined rocks. When mine water flows into a river, the iron causes the water to change colour."
SEPA will continue to work in partnership with the Coal Authority to investigate any further incidents.
Members of the public concerned about potential pollution can contact SEPA using its 24-hour online form at

Notes to editors:
  • The Coal Authority and SEPA work in partnership to improve the environment in mining areas.

  • There are a number of areas of coal and ironstone mine workings to the south west of St Andrews. Some of these mine workings, such as the former Winthank Colliery, date from around 1850 and are recorded on mine plans. There are also likely to be areas of older unrecorded workings.

  • Storm events or prolonged wet weather can occasionally result in the short term release of increased water from old mines into nearby waters, including iron rich material often associated with the mine workings.