Scottish Water campaign launched to flush away Midlothian river pollution issue

Sewage debris that had polluted the Mary Burn near Easthouses.
Sewage debris that had polluted the Mary Burn near Easthouses.

A campaign to encourage local people to think twice about what they flush down the loo, in a bid to help protect the local environment, has been launched by Scottish Water.

It aims to highlight the damage caused to the sewer network as well as to rivers and burns when products such as wet wipes, sanitary products, plasters and cotton wool are flushed down the loo.

Scottish Water Love Your Loo poster

Scottish Water Love Your Loo poster

It comes after a major clean-up of sewage debris that had polluted the Mary Burn near Easthouses and River South Esk at Newbattle Viaduct. The debris, which made its way to the burn, included a large number of wet wipes and sanitary items. It took weeks for it to be collected by Scottish Water as much of the waste was in hard to reach places and embedded into the side of the burns and rivers.

The campaign – which kicked off today (Wednesday) – will see Scottish Water staff, including people responsible for keeping the sewers maintained, visiting local primary schools to teach youngsters about the utility’s 3Ps message. They will be urged to only put pee, poo and paper down the toilet and pass this message on to all their family and friends.

Children will also learn what happens to the sewers and to rivers and beaches and the wider environment when the wrong items go into the network and cause blockages and flooding.

Pupils from P4 to P7 will also be taking part in a competition, run in conjunction with Midlothian Council, to design a poster with the 3Ps message. The winning entry will be shown on the large billboard on the outskirts of Newtongrange for a month to raise awareness among as many people as possible.

Scottish Water campaign poster.

Scottish Water campaign poster.

Local community activists who helped highlight the recent pollution incidents will also be involved in the campaign. Some of them will also be on the judging panel for the school poster competition along with local politicians and Scottish Water representatives.

Steven Boon, regional waste water operations manager at Scottish Water, said: “Every day people flush items down the toilet which can cause blockages in the sewer network. This can result in sewer flooding in homes or streets. Other times, after heavy rainfall, these items can spill into the local rivers and burns. We saw this happen in the Mary Burn over a prolonged period of time. As a result we saw the impact this litter can have on the local environment and we need everyone’s help to prevent this happening again at this site and indeed anywhere else.

“Putting the right things down the loo is simple – and effective. More than 80 per cent of the blockages we attend are avoidable as they are the result of things like wipes – now our sewers’ biggest enemy – being flushed down.

“We urge the people of Midlothian to back this campaign and start loving their loos.”

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

Welcoming the two-month campaign, Midlothian North MSP Colin Beattie, said: “This initiative is both timely and to be supported. Recent experiences with the Mary Burn show how flushing the wrong items, such as wipes, can lead to heavy pollution, with considerably negative effects for humans and wildlife.

“We simply cannot keep polluting our environment in the way we are and expect to keep our rivers and burns fit for use by us and our children.

“I would urge everyone to follow the simple 3P rules.”

Midlothian Provost, Councillor Peter Smaill, also backed the new campaign. He said: “This is a great initiative to engage our young people and help get the message out about how seemingly innocuous, everyday actions, like flushing something down the loo can have a very serious impact on our local environment. I’m looking forward to seeing the winning entries displayed as I’m sure they will help educate all of us in what a difference we can make to cutting pollution.

“This problem has been a very real one for the Eskbank/Newbattle area with the River South Esk suffering significant waste contamination due to the volumes of material being flushed away and which the adjacent sewer system cannot handle.”

Stuart Forbes, volunteer co-ordinator at Mayfield & Easthouses Development Trust said: “While we’re still waiting for the clean-up of the Mary Burn to be completed we’re glad to see Scottish Water are also focusing on educating the local community on what not to flush down the toilet. Individuals, communities and organisations like Scottish Water all have a responsibility to look after the environment. Therefore our video campaign will also be addressing ‘what not to flush’ soon.”

For information click here.