West Lothian residents raging as 'raw sewage pumped into river' during deluge

West Lothian residents have complained the River Almond has had sewage spewed into it during recent heavy rainfall.

Images and video have been shared with Edinburgh Live that appear to show sewage discharge coming from the East Calder Waste Water Treatment Works which is run by Scottish Water.

One local, Scot Muir, snapped images of what looked like sanitary and hygiene products stuck to branches just down river from the treatment hub.

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He said: “I suspect that the grate has been cleaned but the branch two meters down doesn’t lie about what’s been going into the river.”

Another local, Peter Poole, who filmed the overflow pipes from the East Calder plant, complained that the sewage overflow pipes could not cope with the heavy rain.

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He added: “Both sewage overflow pipes are pumping out sewage into the river. Sewage works can't cope with the rain!”

The images and video were shared with both Scottish Water who are responsible for the treatment works as well as the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) which regulates the East Calder site.

Scottish Water bosses said their sewage works are often used as a pressure relief system to avoid flooding when the capital and Lothians experience extremely heavy rainfall as was seen on May 23.

The area was said to have experienced a month's worth of rain in the space of 24 hours during this period which put extra pressure on the processing site.

Despite this however, Scottish Water chiefs say all combined sewer overflow is properly treated before being released into the water.

Although they admit raw sewage was discharged, they argue it is extremely diluted and within regulation levels.

The waste water treatment works.
The waste water treatment works. -Credit:Peter Poole.

A Scottish Water spokesperson said: “There has been exceptional rainfall in the Edinburgh and the Lothians area over the past few days. This has led to very high flows into the East Calder Wastewater Treatment Works where the site has continued to operate as designed with no reported issues.

“During exceptional rainfall events when there is a danger of localised flooding, the sewer system is designed to act as a pressure relief system that diverts rainfall away from streets and homes as quickly as possible to minimise the risk of community flooding.

“This rainwater goes down drains and sewers and is channelled to the wastewater treatment works where excess flows are screened and discharged to the river through a Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO).

“All CSO discharges into water courses must comply with quality standards set in these licences. The levels of untreated sewage in storm water that is discharged is very dilute so is unlikely to cause harm to the environment.

“This system is there to protect the streets and communities from flooding, whilst also making sure that the treatment process continues, uninterrupted, delivering a service to communities.”

SEPA officers said they were aware of the works processing the excess water and sewage but added they had not received a ‘pollution notification’ relating to the area.

A spokesperson for SEPA said: “Waste Water Treatment Works are designed to treat effluent arriving from the local catchment. When flows increase because of heavy rainfall in the area the works continue to treat the effluent, with flows greater than the design capacity being screened and overflowing.

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“East Calder Waste Water Treatment Works is authorised to overflow to the River Almond in wet weather, such as that experienced on May 23 2024 where more than a month’s worth of rain fell across Edinburgh and the Lothians during a 36-hour period.

“We have not received a pollution notification from the public regarding East Calder Waste Water Treatment Works nor have any information to suggest that the works are not operating as authorised.

“Anyone who is concerned about a potential pollution incident should contact SEPA online at www.sepa.org.uk/report or via the Pollution Hotline 0800 80 70 60.”