Pollution returns to Midlothian river despite local campaign

Pollution, in the form of items like wet wipes and sanitary products, has returned to the Mary Burn in Lord Ancrum's Wood.
Pollution, in the form of items like wet wipes and sanitary products, has returned to the Mary Burn in Lord Ancrum's Wood.

People in Midlothian are being reminded to ‘love their loos’ after a new clean-up of a local burn had to be carried out.

Scottish Water is almost finished a major clean-up of pollution including items like wet wipes and sanitary products in the Mary Burn in Lord Ancrum’s Wood which began several months ago.

Pollution, in the form of items like wet wipes and sanitary products, has returned to the Mary Burn in Lord Ancrum's Wood.

Pollution, in the form of items like wet wipes and sanitary products, has returned to the Mary Burn in Lord Ancrum's Wood.

This was the result of repeated overflows of items which should not be flushed down the loo over a long period of time. The process has taken time due to the large amount of items to be removed and the fact many of the dried up items – which should not have been in the sewer network – were in hard to reach areas.

Scottish Water made adjustments on the network to reduce the likelihood of overflows at this location. It also installed a new metal grill to try and prevent these items, which are being wrongly put down loos, from entering the burn and going into the River Esk and then the sea. During recent heavy rain there was an overflow from the sewer network in the area and this contained fresh items which have been wrongly flushed down the toilet – creating a mass build-up of wet wipes and sanitary items. Most of the items have been caught on a grill which was added to an overflow outlet on the burn.

Scott Fraser, communities manager at Scottish Water, said: “Flushing anything other than the 3P’s – pee, poo and toilet paper - creates blockages in the sewer pipes and this can lead to flooding, like at the Mary Burn.

“We need everyone to help prevent this, otherwise we will continue to have incidents like this. We are doing all we can to prevent incidents like this – and we are again urging people to stop putting the wrong items down their loos.

“More than 80 per cent of the blockages we attend are avoidable as they are the result of non-flushable items being put down loos.

“We are campaigning across the area at the moment to try and make people think before they flush. The simple rule is only flush the 3P’s. Everything else should go in the bin. Your toilet is not a bin.”

These photos (above) were taken at a Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) at Mary Burn. CSO is the water industry name for relief points in the sewer network, for overflows at times of heavy rainfall. All of these overflow points are regulated by Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) via what are known discharge licences which say where and when Scottish Water can allow discharges from the sewer network to go. Most CSOs do not normally have grills but one was added at Mary Burn due to the ongoing issues to trap items.

Mr Fraser added: “These latest pictures show the battle we face. I would urge everyone to think twice about what they flush down toilets and remember where the items end up – they should be binned not flushed.”

Local MSPS have backed the utility’s call for people to remember that what they flush in their homes and workplaces can pollute the environment. Christine Grahame (SNP), MSP for Midlothian South, said: “The only way we’ll see an end to these blockages and pollution issues is by making sure people know what they can and can’t flush.

“I hope Scottish Water highlighting this issue will encourage local people to think twice about what they flush down the loo, as it really does have a huge impact on the local environment, as we’ve seen here in Midlothian.”

And Colin Beattie (SNP), MSP for Midlothian North, said: “I encourage everyone to only flush the 3P’s – pee, poo and toilet paper - down the toilet, to prevent blockages in the sewer pipes and avoid flooding, like we are currently seeing at the Mary Burn. I am extremely concerned with the impact the waste going down the sewer pipes is causing in the current sewage system. Please think twice before flushing anything down the toilet.”

Scottish Water maintains more than 380 miles of sewer pipes in Midlothian which take waste water away from homes and businesses in the area.

It has been running a campaign to urge people to only flush the 3Ps down the loo for a month. The drive has included school visits and a poster campaign – the results of which will be revealed next week when the winning art work will be displayed on a local billboard for a month to promote the 3Ps message.