Surfers and swimmers told not to use popular East Lothian beach after sewage spill

Scottish Water hope to resolve the problem by the end of January.

Saturday, 11th January 2020, 7:45 am
Surfers and hardy swimmers have been told not to use one of the most popular beaches in Scotland after a sewage spill flooded the waters with human waste.

Surfers and hardy swimmers have been told not to use one of the most popular beaches in Scotland after a sewage spill flooded the waters with human waste.

Untreated waste spewing into Belhaven Bay is preventing use of the popular Dunbar beach after signs urging people not to enter the water were erected.

The alarm was initially raised on December 18, when Scottish Water identified a “substance spill from an external site into the sewer network”, which prompted the issuing of a warning against bathing or entering the popular surf spot.

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It is understood that use of a secondary pipe, known as a storm outfall pipe, at Dunbar Waste Water Treatment Works - used when there are failures in usual treatment systems - have breached contractual limits, as the substance continues to spill near the bay.

Contaminated Water

Recent samples taken of water from Belhaven Bay indicate that the water is now contaminated.

Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) said it is “continuing to take action after an incident”.

In a joint statement alongside Scottish Water, East Lothian Council and NHS Lothian they said: “Scottish Water identified a substance spill from an external site into the sewer network in the Dunbar area on 18 December which impacted the normal treatment process at Dunbar Waste Water Treatment Works.

“Whilst the situation has improved, work is still being done to make the site fully operational again.

“Scottish Water is working 24/7 to resolve this issue as quickly as possible and in the meantime there may be some screened discharge of waste water from the long sea outfall into coastal waters, which is why the ‘advice against bathing’ continues.

“It is hoped this issue will be resolved before the end of January”.

Top Surfing Spot

The cause and source of the spill remains unconfirmed, however Scottish Water have said that they are “happy to confirm the spill was not from our site but from an external site in the area”.

The bay attracts droves of keen surfers each year, priding itself as one of the top wave-catching spots in the country.

A spokesperson for the newly-opened Belhaven Surf Centre said that they were one of the first to be notified of the incident.

“We just put posters up everywhere really quickly so everybody’s been locally aware of it and the beach has been really quiet.

“Added to that there’s been virtually no surf and we’ve had quite a quiet time over the winter.’’

Although not a desirable outcome for any beach or surf-spot, the centre said that it “couldn’t have happened at a better time of year” due to the current quality of surf at the beach.

Cllr. Norman Hampshire for Dunbar and East Linton said: “It is very annoying that this is a high quality beach and we are suffering this level of discharge into the bay.

“The situation at the moment seems to be that there is a serious failure in that system and there has been several discharges of untreated sewage being discharged into the bay.

“Because of these discharges there is higher levels of contamination than is deemed to be acceptable and restrictions have been put in and advice given to people to not enter the water at Belhaven Bay.

“The advice we’ve got at the minute is that if somebody does go in and they were to swallow water then they could potentially get sick,” he added.

Members of the public can contact SEPA’s 24-hour Pollution Hotline on 0800 807060 to report any potential pollution events.