River Esk pollution incident - Sunday 16 January

  16 January 2022

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency and East Lothian Council are continuing to work together to respond to a pollution incident in the River Esk at Musselburgh, with a contractor being brought in to support clean-up work at the likely source.

On Friday 14 January an East Lothian Council Countryside Ranger spotted an unusual residue that seemed to be discharging into the River Esk.

Specialist SEPA officers began an investigation on location, with the council’s Protective Services team in attendance to support SEPA.

Water samples, which will help identify the material, impact and potential source, have been taken across the incident, for analysis at SEPA labs.

SEPA officers identified the location of the pollution discharge and by Saturday afternoon were confident that it was no longer discharging into the water environment. However, it may take time to dissipate with continued water discolouration and odour, which is expected to decrease in the coming days.

SEPA and East Lothian Council teams have been on location throughout the weekend and on Sunday morning, Council officers put in place absorbent pillows in order to protect the watercourse. Together, SEPA and East Lothian Council are arranging for a contractor to remove pollution material from the likely source – a manhole filled with as yet unknown material leading to a watercourse.

SEPA supported by the council are continuing to investigate the cause of the pollution, including how the material entered the manhole and watercourse.  SEPA is unable to comment further at this stage given the matter is a live investigation and due to the potential for enforcement or criminal action.

SEPA has asked for anyone with information to contact it’s 24 Hour Pollution Hotline on 0800 80 7060, via sepa.org.uk/report or to contact CrimeStoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

As a precaution, we would advise owners not to allow their dogs to go into the water at this time.

Recognising the environmental significance of the Esk and the importance of bird and aquatic life, Scottish SPCA are aware and have been in attendance.

This pollution incident has been very concerning for local communities. We are very grateful to local people for their support and understanding during this incident.

Scott Crawford, SEPA’s National Duty Manager, said:

“Across the last 72 hours, specialist officers from SEPA and East Lothian Council have been responding to a pollution incident in the River Esk at Musselburgh.  Whilst investigations are ongoing, officers have identified the location of the pollution discharge and are confident that it is no longer discharging into the water environment. However, it may take time to dissipate with continued water discolouration and odour, which is expected to decrease in the coming days.

“Council officers deployed absorbent pillows in order to protect the watercourse and working together, we’ve arranging for a contractor to remove pollution material from the likely source – a manhole filled with as yet unknown material leading to a watercourse

“Our investigations are ongoing, including scientific analysis of the pollutant material, but SEPA would ask for anyone with information to contact our 24 Hour Pollution Hotline on 0800 80 7060, via sepa.org.uk/report or to contact CrimeStoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

“We know this pollution incident has been very concerning for local communities and are very grateful to local people for their information, support and understanding during this incident.”

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