Raw waste discharged into river used as ‘open sewer’

West Lothian councillors have called for an action plan from Scottish Water to clean up the River Almond.

Raw waste discharged into river used as ‘open sewer’ iStock

Raw sewage was discharged into a West Lothian river over 500 times in a year, it has been revealed.

Local authority councillors have called for an action plan from Scottish Water to clean up the River Almond.

Councillor Diane Calder, the SNP group’s environment spokesperson, said: “Thanks to local campaigners for their persistence in obtaining these figures. This is a shocking failure of all agencies to adequately treat waste. In effect our river is being used as an open sewer.”

The group of councillors met with a recently formed River Almond Action Group (RAAG) last month.

Since then, the SNP group has written to Scottish Water which retains responsibility for water standards although Veolia manages the Waste Water Treatment Works on its behalf.

During and after even moderate rainfall, the current waste water works are simply unable to cope – when this happens raw sewage is discharged straight into the River Almond.

West Lothian councillors said there had been over 500 such incidents in 2019.

This waste is visible and councillors say it detracts from the enjoyment people get by using the local country park.

Councillor Moira Shemilt said: “During lockdown, when movement around the country has been restricted, wild water swimming has become very popular in West Lothian. This is not just of benefit physically but has also been shown to be therapeutic for mental health. We are delighted to hear that the Forth Rivers Trust has applied to SEPA for bathing water status for parts of the River Almond. Local people should be able to swim here in our country park.”

And group leader Councillor Janet Campbell said: “Scottish Water state on their own website that ‘pollution can cause a risk to human health, affect biodiversity, amenity value and has the potential to kill fish and other aquatic life’, yet have allowed this level of pollution to happen on a regular basis in one of the primary locations in West Lothian for local families to enjoy.

“This is quite simply not good enough – Scottish Water must now produce a plan for action, showing how they and their partners will progress the cleaning up of our river”

A Scottish Water spokeswoman said: “We are listening to concerns of the community and are committed to doing all we can to protect the River Almond.

“It is important to highlight the waste water network and treatment works are operated under strict regulatory policy and regulated licences.

“Along with Veolia, we are already engaged with local stakeholders and community groups to help protect the River Almond from pollution and will continue to liaise with them and the wider community on our operations, assets and future plans for the area.

“Scottish Water strives to protect the environment whilst providing an essential service to our many customers.  We continue to campaign and encourage people to ensure only the three Ps  – pee, poo and (toilet) paper  – are flushed down toilets and fats, oil and grease are not poured down sinks to stop blockages and flooding.”

Story by local democracy reported Stuart Sommerville

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