Regular readers will know I’m a big fan of Fisherrow beach. (My team came second in the sandcastle competition a couple of summers back, don’t you know.)
As a member of Fisherrow Waterfront Group I’ve been keeping in contact with Scottish Water and SEPA to find out what more can be done to raise the quality of the water at the beach, as recent years’ samples have left Fisherrow classed as “poor”.
I blogged last summer about the background to the situation, and you can read that here.
The update I have is that I was recently invited to join the snappily-titled Edinburgh Area Bathing Waters Stakeholder Group. (Stop yawning at the back!)
In short, there are a couple of beaches in this part of Scotland causing the regulators concern: Fisherrow and Portobello West. The worst-case scenario is that after five years of “poor” ratings the authorities would be obliged to advise the public not to swim in the water off these beaches. The earliest that could kick in is Summer 2020. So, you can see why it makes sense to get everyone together to figure out what can be done to lift standards.
As my background blog explained, the ultimate issue at Fisherrow seems to be the impact from sewerage infrastructure in the Brunstane area. When that infrastructure overflows during heavy rain, water quality in the Brunstane burn deteriorates, and as the burn flows into the Forth next to Fisherrow Sands, you can see it would have an impact on any samples taken.
What I learned at the stakeholder group was this:
-A review of Scottish Water infrastructure in the area was completed last year.
-CSI-style analysis of bacteria in water samples shows it is from human sources, ie sewerage.
-A new electronic sign has been installed at Fisherrow to warn bathers when poor quality water is expected, usually soon after a heavy downpour of rain.
-Scottish Water is developing options for improvement.
-The way beaches are classified means that if you have electronic warning signs, and you are able to warn the public about poor quality events, you have the option to remove some of the corresponding poor quality water samples from that season’s analysis.
So, my takeaway is that now the authorities have a better understanding of the issues and have installed a warning sign, there’s a good chance we’ll see the unfortunate exceptional samples being discounted, resulting in Fisherrow’s average water quality rising slightly, perhaps getting us out of the “poor” category and into “sufficient”. And possibly with investment from Scottish Water we could see it rise to “good”.
Given the huge potential for community and commercial benefit from our fab wee beach, this small adjustment in classification isn’t to be sniffed at. Our reputation is at stake. I’ll be keeping in touch with SEPA and Scottish Water on this issue.
There are of course wider issues such as the need to de-clutter the car parking around the harbour and provide a safe walking and cycling route for people of all abilities to get from the bathing beach on the west side of the harbour to the links beach on the east side. And there are opportunities to improve the historic harbour, which we all own via the Common Good, create an off-road link from the beach round to Portobello, and provide space for community events and commercial activities. I see North Berwick are trying out some beach huts. Maybe we could explore that too?