Belhaven Bay sewage leak highlighted procedure flaw

MSP Iain Gray (right) and Councillor Norman Hampshire at Belhaven Beach where there was a sewage leak.
MSP Iain Gray (right) and Councillor Norman Hampshire at Belhaven Beach where there was a sewage leak.

East Lothian MSP Iain Gray has welcomed a review of national guidance on wastewater pollution incidents which is to take place later this year.

He pressed Scottish Government ministers on the issue following widespread public concern about a sewage leak in Belhaven Bay during the summer.

Under the existing guidance for reporting wastewater pollution incidents, the discharge was not considered important enough to be reported to East Lothian Council.

In a written answer to Mr Gray, Environment Minister Alieen McLeod confirmed that the guidance was last updated in 2009 and that a review would take place later this year.

Mr Gray said: “I welcome the forthcoming review of the guidance on managing wastewater pollution incidents. Communities should have confidence in pollution reporting procedures but the recent sewage leak at Belhaven Bay highlighted flaws in the current guidance.

“The fact that it was not deemed important enough to inform East Lothian Council and the public was of particular concern.

“I believe public health must be the number one concern when these incidents occur. There is a clear and direct interest for local communities when a pollution incident happens and it’s not acceptable for councils and the public to be kept in the dark. I find it surprising that, given their key role in public safety, local authorities are not currently involved in the initial assessment of pollution incidents.

“It would seem appropriate to involve councils in local incidents at the earliest opportunity, regardless of how significant they turn out to be.

“The review will present an opportunity for interested parties, including local councils, to have their say. It must lead to new guidance which ensures that never again can sewage be discharged at Belhaven without the council and beach users being informed.”

At the time. A spokesman for Scottish Water said: “Scottish Water responded to this matter with utmost urgency and action and took all necessary steps to manage and restore normal working. There had been some minor intermittent discharges through an overflow pipe and, at the same time, heavy rainfall and run off from land entered the bathing water.”