'Public health jeopardised' as human waste dumped in Scottish waters

An investigation revealed sewage was dumped into Scotland's waters 10,000 times in 2021.

Public health concerns raised as sewage dumped into Scotland’s waters iStock

Public health concerns have been raised over the release of untreated human waste into Scotland’s waters.

An investigation by The Ferret revealed that, in 2021, untreated human waste was dumped into Scotland’s waters more than 10,000 times. 

It was also found that 49 out of 87 designated bathing waters recorded levels of faecal bacteria over the summer.

Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has now written to the Scottish Government to ask what action was being taken to prevent the practice.

He said sewage being dumped was “jeopardising public health and endangering lives”.

Cole-Hamilton, who raised the issue at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, said: “Raw sewage is being routinely dumped into our rivers every day, and it’s the government’s own water company that’s behind it. 

“Scottish Water is only required to monitor three per cent of sewage release points, so the true figure will be far worse than 10,000 releases a year.”

A Scottish Water spokesperson said: “Scottish Water is committed to continuing to support the protection and improvement of Scotland’s rivers, coastal waters and beaches.

“We recently published our ‘improving urban waters route map’ and plan to invest up to half a billion pounds in Scotland’s waste water network to deliver further improvements and help support the country’s rivers, beaches and urban waters to be free from sewage related debris.

“This will enable us to target investment in improving our monitoring, reporting our performance, and upgrading the worst performing Combined Sewer Overflows. CSO’s play an important role as essential safety valves on the sewer network to help prevent flooding which can particularly affect customers’ properties and communities.

“All our customers can play a huge part in preventing debris in rivers and on beaches. Our new national campaign ‘Nature Calls’ urges customers not to flush wet wipes (and other items) down the toilet and we are calling for a complete ban on the sale of wet wipes containing plastic.“

Environment minister Mairi McAllan said: “The Scottish Government takes the matter of sewage pollution very seriously and works closely with SEPA and Scottish Water to reduce its impacts on the water environment.

“Scottish Water, which is publicly owned, has already invested £686 million on improvements to infrastructure and treatment works since 2010 and its Improving Urban Waters Route map commits to a further £345-470 million during the regulatory period 2021-27.

“Scotland’s rivers, lochs and coastal waters are world renowned and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) classifies 66% in overall good ecological condition. This is compared to England where only 16% are in good condition or the average across Europe at around 45%. For water quality alone SEPA classifies 87% of our water environment, including the River Spey, as having ‘good’ water quality”.

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code