Investigation launched into ‘unsafe’ water at Portobello

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Three of the city’s prized seaside spots labelled unsafe for swimming will now be rigorously tested in the hope the water quality can be improved.

A floating platform will be visible from the Capital’s coastline from Monday for around five weeks as Scottish Water investigates options to improve the water at Portobello and Fisherrow.

Portobello Beach sufferes from poor water quality. Picture: Greg Macvean

Portobello Beach sufferes from poor water quality. Picture: Greg Macvean

The 18-metre high and 18-wide platform will be on the Firth of Forth approximately one kilometre from the Portobello shoreline.

An eight-strong team of specialist engineers will drill boreholes into the sea bed as part of the investigation into the poor water quality.

Portobello-Craigmillar Greens Cllr Mary Campbell said: “While the platform is not the most attractive view from Portobello beach, the work it is doing will help improve the quality of the water for years to come.

“We have seen from this hot summer how much people from all across the city enjoy Edinburgh’s seaside, and there are many groups working to ensure the water quality is as good as it can be.

“However, there will be infrastructure work required to make large scale improvements, and the investigative work Scottish Water is conducting will be key to make sure the right improvements are made.”

Director of Capital Investment at Scottish Water Mark Dickson added: “We appreciate Portobello Beach is a hugely popular area, especially during the summer months.

“This work is being carried out at this time as the sea condition is likely to be the most favourable for the essential tests we need to carry out ahead of any investment.”

“We will ensure people in the area, including residents, businesses and visitors, are kept fully informed and updated on work we are due to carry out.”

Bathing waters at Portobello West and Musselburgh’s Fisherrow Sands scraped a “poor” rating with Portobello’s central beach designated as just “sufficient” in May – for the second year running.

Heavy rainfall washing human waste and treated sewage effluent into the sea from the Figgate Burn, which flows into the sea between Portobello west and Portobello central, has been blamed for the substandard quality of the water in the area.

Sepa recommended that swimming in Portobello West – the stretch of beach between the Seafield sewage works and Tumbles play centre – and Fisherrow Sands – to the west of the harbour – is avoided for up to two days after heavy rainfall because of the risk of illness, including stomach bugs and ear infections.

The investigation work has been welcomed by environment groups and local councils.

Terry A’Hearn, Chief Executive of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), said: “Every day SEPA works to protect and enhance Scotland’s stunning environment and we are committed to ensuring all of Scotland’s designated bathing waters meet water quality standards.

“Working with partners, we’re continuing our focus on bathing waters rated as ‘poor’, or at risk of poor water quality events. This project is an important first step to understanding the plans for securing major improvements to bathing water quality in the future at both Portobello bathing waters and also Fisherrow Sands.”

fiona.pringle@jpress.co.uk