Iain Gray MSP has welcomed the Scottish Government’s confirmation that national guidance on wastewater pollution incidents is to be reviewed later this year.
Mr Gray pressed Scottish Government Ministers on the issue following widespread public concern about a sewage leak at Belhaven Bay earlier this year. East Lothian Council was not informed of the incident at the time as, under the existing guidance for reporting wastewater pollution incidents, the leak was not considered important enough to be reported to the council.
In a written answer to Mr Gray’s question on the issue, Environment Minister Alieen McLeod confirmed that the guidance was last updated in 2009 and that a review will take place later this year. She also stated that ‘the effectiveness and improvement of the guidance’ will be an integral part of the review.
Speaking about the review, Iain Gray MSP said:
“I welcome the forthcoming review of the guidance on managing wastewater pollution incidents. Communities should have confidence in pollution reporting procedures but the recent sewage leak at Belhaven Bay highlighted flaws in the current guidance.
“The fact that it was not deemed important enough to inform East Lothian Council and the public was of particular concern.
“I believe public health must be the number one concern when these incidents occur. There is a clear and direct interest for local communities when a pollution incident happens and it’s not acceptable for councils and the public to be kept in the dark.
“In fact I find it surprising that, given their key role in public safety, local authorities are not currently involved in the initial assessment of pollution incidents. It would seem appropriate to involve councils in local incidents at the earliest opportunity, regardless of how significant they turn out to be.
“The review will present an opportunity for interested parties, including local councils, to have their say and hopefully strengthen their role in responding to sewage leaks and other pollution incidents
“It must lead to new guidance which ensures that never again can sewage be discharged at Belhaven without the council and beach users being informed.”