AN investigation has been launched to identify the source of a diesel oil slick which washed up on a Lothian beach yesterday, sparking concerns for wildlife.
Around five gallons of diesel washed up on North Berwick West Beach at some time late yesterday morning, forming what one onlooker described as a “white scum” across the water.
Sepa attended the site along with East Lothian Council environmental health officer Finlay Mackay, but as the slick had already washed ashore they announced that there was little more that could be done and that the oil would eventually be dispersed by evaporation and the action of the tide and wind.
Warning notices have been posted at the beach as a precaution, although there is thought to be little risk to public health. Sepa has also asked members of the public to contact it if they see any oil spilled outwith the area of the west bay.
However, the source of the slick could remain a mystery.
A spokesman for East Lothian Council said: “It’s likely we will not find out where it came from as there is no obvious source. A dinghy regatta that was meant to take place today was cancelled and it has not come from any local boats as far as we know.”
The Scottish Seabird Centre, which is within walking distance of West Beach, has urged anyone who finds any oiled birds to contact it or the Scottish SPCA immediately.
Tom Brock, chief executive at the Scottish Seabird Centre, said: “I’m sure they are doing everything they can and I imagine it must be difficult to ascertain the source, but we would much rather know where the oil came from so we can stop this from happening again. The last thing we want is for this kind of thing to recur.”
He added: “Any pollution concerns us, as it is a threat to the fantastic wildlife we are fortunate enough to have right on our doorstep.
“Hopefully this is a one-off and wildlife doesn’t suffer.”
The slick has arrived at a particularly bad time, as judges from UK in Bloom are set to arrive in North Berwick today, with the town hoping to repeat the success of 2010. Two years ago, the town took the gold medal for coastal towns with a population of 12,000 or more.
This year, the only Scottish nomination in the category faces competition from towns such as Bangor in Northern Ireland, Great Yarmouth in East Anglia and Grouville in Jersey.
North Berwick in Bloom was unavailable for comment and it is unclear whether the beach area would be reviewed as part of the judging process.
Local Labour councillor Jim Goodfellow visited West Beach yesterday morning. He said: “The diesel spill is dispersing on incoming tide – high tide is at 6pm – and the spill is presently confined to the west bay. As this is the height of North Berwick’s tourist season, we have been lucky that this spill has been identified so quickly.”
North Berwick West Beach has received awards from the Keep Scotland Beautiful campaign, which described it as an ideal location for sunbathing, bird watching, paddling, picnics and dog walking.