River Almond becoming 'public health hazard' filled with sewage and discarded sanitary items, says environmental campaigner

The River Almond is becoming a “public health hazard” filled with sewage and discarded sanitary items, an environmental campaigner has said.

Saturday, 20th March 2021, 12:30 pm

Toilet rolls, wet wipes and sanitary towels along with sewage are, he alleges, being washed down the 28-mile river which rises at Hirst Hill near Shotts and runs through large West Lothian towns including Whitburn and Livingston before draining into the sea at Cramond in Edinburgh.

Currently, debris can be seen clinging to trees in beauty spots and banks of the river are covered in debris including bottles, cans, bikes, car tyres, takeaway containers and plastic at several locations.

Civil engineer Lee Haywood said: "This is not just a West Lothian problem. It has a problem for communities the whole length of the river, including those in Edinburgh."

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Pollution is not a new concern for the river as it runs through areas once dominated by heavy industry as well as shale and coal mining.

However, strenuous efforts have been made to improve water quality in recent years and the area is being repopulated by wildlife, including brown trout and improving runs of both Atlantic salmon and sea trout.

Haywood lives in Mid Calder and sees the pollution on his doorstep and this has led to him fronting a campaign to clean up the river and is urging people to sign a petition.

He says the move is urgent as the population - including lots of families with young children - are moving into large new housing estates being built by several leading home builders near the banks of the river. One in particular is at Calderwood at East Calder.

Litter on the banks of the River Almond

Anglers are complaining and environmentalists are concerned that salmon and fish stocks will be affected by sewage and dog walkers have also voiced their displeasure.

Haywood said that pollution has been a recurring problem in the river for years but the recent heavy rains, particularly one in December, have highlighted the issue.

He has written to local councillors and is pressing for meetings with Livingston MP Hannah Bardell and Almond Valley MSP Angela Constance as well as urging people to sign a petition.

Locals can see pictures of the problem on a Facebook page called river Almond Sewage Action Group and Haywood's future plans include setting up a committee to keep the issue highlighted.

He added: "Something needs to be done. We don't want children wading in a river which has pieces of toilet roll floating down it.

"Anglers don't want to wading into that to do their fishing and dog walkers don't want their dogs walking into a polluted river.

"Thousands are being spent on fishing ladders to encourage salmon to return to the river to spawn and pollution issues won't help that nor encourage wildlife to come back to the area."

Haywood added: "I encourage the public to report any pollution they see in the river and urge them to get behind this campaign.

"We all want a cleaner river and I will be doing all I can to improve the River Almond which is a great asset to the area."

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.