ONE of the Capital’s most popular beaches has been rated “poor” because of overflowing sewers, it has emerged.
Portobello West has been given the ranking after the introduction of much tighter quality standards from the European Union.
The new report found that “improvements” to combined sewer overflows along the Braid and Figgate Burns were needed to meet revised standards, with the area’s failure to do so also blamed on heavy rainfall washing human waste and treated sewage effluent into the sea.
A recent study by Scottish Water concluded that upgrades were needed at facilities including Mountcastle Drive, Ventnor Drive, Kirk Brae and Cluny Place – and the utilities company has pledged to work with local authorities and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) to “identify possible future enhancements”.
Meanwhile, Sepa has recommended that swimming in Portobello West – the stretch of beach between the Seafield sewage works and Tumbles play centre – is avoided for up to two days after heavy rainfall because of the risk of illness.
Portobello Central, including the popular beach itself and promenade as far as Joppa, was awarded a “sufficient quality” status, while Fisherrow Sands in Musselburgh and Yellowcraig were deemed “poor”.
The agency has confirmed that Seafield itself had met “discharge thresholds” and was not a factor in the area’s poor bathing water quality.
Lothian Green MSP Alison Johnstone said: “A day at Porty beach is one of Edinburgh’s treasured days out.
“So it is really disappointing to see that the main bathing water at Portobello just scrapes a ‘sufficient’ rating and it is flanked by shores ranked as ‘poor’. There is a lot of work to do to improve sewage systems and to control the run-off from agricultural areas.
“Across Europe, the report says that such investment has dramatically improved beaches so I’ll be asking the council, Scottish Water and Sepa to make sure Portobello and the wider area gets that same investment. That effort should not stop until Portobello’s bathing water is rated excellent.”
Mike Bridgman, SNP councillor for Portobello and Craigmillar, added: “I hope that the recommendations in the report are acted upon and works are secured. This has been a problem in previous years but there are also contributing factors from the environment itself.”
Sepa is preparing tailored improvement plans to help each of the “poor” bathing waters to meet at least the “sufficient” standard by 2020.
Of the 84 officially designated bathing waters in Scotland, 17 have been classed as “excellent”, 38 “good”, 12 “sufficient” and 17 “poor” depending on the levels of faecal bacteria detected.