Salmon fishery board chiefs have called for “urgent action” after raw sewage once again spilled into a West Lothian river, heightening concerns about the impact on wildlife and river users.

Heavy rain on Thursday combined with a blockage at the East Calder Waste Water Treatment Works meant plant operator Veolia had to free up capacity by releasing some wastewater into the River Almond.

SEPA says it is investigating the “unauthorised discharge” while anglers and local residents have been voicing their anger and sharing pictures online of wastewater apparently flowing into the river.

The Edinburgh Evening News previously highlighted concerns from the Forth District Salmon Fishery Board (FDSFB) in April following a sewage spillage at the treatment plant.

Alison Baker, clerk to the FDSFB, said: “The Forth District Salmon Fishery Board remains concerned and disappointed that untreated sewage is being discharged into the River Almond.

“Despite assurances from SEPA and Scottish Water that earlier issues have been investigated and plans in place, it is clear that East Calder WWTW is struggling to deal with the requirements to properly treat sewage from the area.

“We are asking what alternatives are considered before discharging into the river, what assessments are undertaken to protect important recovering populations of Atlantic salmon and other native fish species and how are users of the river including anglers, dog owners and children playing in the river, being properly engaged with and warned of these discharges?

“These discharges are now occurring on a regular basis and urgent action is required to find alternatives to discharging raw sewage into the river. We look to SEPA as our environmental regulator to start taking a more robust stance.”

‘Majority being fully treated’

Scottish Water said the blockage in the treatment tank happened before the storm and was caused by a non-biodegradable ‘rag ball’ – a collection of items like wet wipes or sanitary products – which they hope will be removed soon.

A Veolia spokesperson said: “On July 30, a combination of storm conditions and a blockage in one of the treatment tanks at the East Calder Waste Water Treatment Works resulted in our needing to reduce the site’s capacity after informing SEPA, the environmental regulators.

“We are using specialist contractors and equipment, and working intensively to resolve this issue.

“All the flow to the River Almond is receiving screening and settlement, the majority is being fully treated through the works.

“We are doing everything possible to minimise the impact on the community and the environment as a result of this issue and will continue to keep you informed of progress.

“We will provide an update as soon as the work has been completed.”

A spokesperson for SEPA said: “SEPA’s investigations have been continuing into an unauthorised discharge at the Veolia operated East Calder Waste Water Treatment Works, which was reported to us on 30 July 2020, including the deployment of authorised officers to assess any impact on the River Almond.

“SEPA understands Veolia has taken steps to decrease the volume of the unauthorised discharge and is continuing to work to resolve the issue and restore the normal operation at the plant as a matter of urgency.”

Source: Edinburgh Evening News, 1st August 2020