Princes Street Gardens shut by exploding sewage main

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AN exploding sewage main in Princes Street Gardens has led to a section of the park being closed off to the public because of fears of possible contamination.

Torrential rain saw the sewage main at one of the lowest points in West Princes Street Gardens erupt “like a geyser” due to the high pressure of water flooding down from Princes Street.

A witness said “debris” from the sewage main shot several feet in the air when the covers buckled, showering the area with more than a foot of sewage and rain water.

Clean-up attempts were hampered by more serious floods elsewhere and continued heavy rains on Saturday, which saw the sewage main overflow again.

Park rangers working for the city council have now closed off a large section of the gardens to allow for a thorough clean up.

Specialist clean-up teams have already started spraying the grass with disinfectant, and it was hoped the area would re-open to the public today.

Among the debris from the huge Victorian sewer underneath the park were large chunks of fat up to a foot across, believed to have come from restaurants in Princes Street.

The remnants of the explosion had been cleared away yesterday, when the park was packed with sun-seeking visitors, and rangers said most people were staying out of the taped-off area, next to the Cenotaph.

Iain Swann, a park ranger in the gardens, said he had been unfortunate enough to be passing the sewage main when it exploded.

“We were in the van going through the park at about 5pm on Friday when the whole thing just went up in front of us, like a geyser,” he said.

“It covered a pretty wide area and was probably about a foot deep, as it was up over the legs of the commemorative benches here.

“Because this is one of the lowest points in the city, and because the sewer is fed by a lot of properties up above on Princes Street there is a danger of this happening when there is heavy rain.

“It’s probably happened about four times in the last nine years, but I’ve never seen it this bad, and this is only the second time we’ve had to get help in to clear it up.

“We got a street sweeper in on Friday night to try and clear up the worst of it and the guys worked really late, but of course it then flooded again on Saturday, and because places like Balcarres Street have to take priority we closed it off. The public have been very good though, and everyone has stayed out of the closed-off area.”

Mark Turley, director of Services for Communities, said: “The torrential rain on Friday afternoon led to the overflow of a sewage pipe underneath part of West Princes Street Gardens.

“This area was cleaned by a council task force that evening and remains cordoned off as a precautionary measure in anticipation of remedial work by specialists from Scottish Water.”

A Scottish Water spokesperson said: “Contractors working on behalf of Scottish Water will carry out a full clean up of the affected area, as soon as possible.

“We apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused.”

gedwards@edinburghnews.com