Tarmac work leaves homes without clean water for five weeks

Water supplies near Ravelrig Quarry have been disrupted since operator Tarmac carried out work on water pipes. Picture: Contributed

Water supplies near Ravelrig Quarry have been disrupted since operator Tarmac carried out work on water pipes. Picture: Contributed

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People living in a small rural community on the outskirts of the capital have been left without clean drinking water and struggling to wash for the past five weeks after their water supply was cut off by a multinational construction company.

The private water supply to five homes along Edinburgh’s Long Dalmahoy Road, between Balerno and Kirknewton, is controlled by Tarmac, which operates the nearby Ravelrig quarry.

It was first interrupted on 7 September to allow the firm to replace pipework and remove a tank which fed the homes with water.

But the householders have remained cut off or with intermittent, low-pressure, dirty and contaminated water supplies ever since.

Testing by Edinburgh City Council’s environmental health department has shown the water that is getting through contains Enterococci faecalis bacteria, found in livestock manure, and excessive levels of lead.

Local residents, who range in age from two to 78 years old, have had to endure days at a time without washing and flushing toilets and have been forced to buy in gallons of bottled water for drinking and cooking.

Now they say enough is enough and immediate action must be taken to restore a basic human right.

One family, which spans three generations, is currently buying in 40 litres of bottled water a week at a cost of around £30.

Shirley Fraser lives at Craglea, a rural property just off the main A71, with her father, husband and daughter.

She says neighbours are angry that Tarmac – which is required under planning conditions to “take all necessary precautions to ensure that a continuous and sufficient supply of potable water is available at all times to those premises” – is not doing enough to resolve the situation.

“We are still having to buy water to drink, she said.

“The water supply is now toxic, and definitely not suitable for consumption.

“Tarmac are still doing nothing to rectify the problem as far as we are aware – there is little contact and only when we contact them.

“Prior to the water report I was suffering with nausea and dehydration, which has stopped since I stopped consuming the water.

“The lead levels are extremely toxic, especially to the three children under 10 that live on the supply.”

The residents have been in contact with local MSP Gordon Macdonald in the hope of getting their predicament taken seriously.

“We are at a loss and we do not know what we can do to get our lives back to normal,” Mrs Fraser added.

“It is certainly not fair, nor right, especially for the elderly.

“We are being bullied and ignored by a big PLC business that controls one of our basic rights – to have fresh water.

“Without water, normal life quickly grinds to a halt.

“I cannot believe that this is 2016 and within the Edinburgh city limits a basic water supply cannot be supplied.”

Five bottles of water were handed out when the supply was first cut off – to be distributed among the five households.

Tarmac has said its engineers are continuing investigations in an attempt to identify the problem.

They will this week begin excavations by hand, due to the inaccessible nature of the site.

Stephen Cowan, estates manager for the firm, said: “We’re aware of an issue with low water pressure for a small number of residents who live near Ravelrig Quarry, to whom we supply water.

“We are working hard to identify whether the source of this issue is within the boundaries of our site or at the properties themselves, to ensure we resolve the problem as quickly as possible.”