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Last Updated: Monday, 23 April 2007, 20:35 GMT 21:35 UK
Forth sewage warnings reissued
Warden approaching woman on beach
Wardens have been patrolling Portobello Beach
New warnings have been issued for people to stay away from the Forth estuary until the area is declared safe following a major sewage leak.

Thames Water confirmed that raw sewage was no longer being released into the Firth of Forth from the Seafield Waste Water Treatment Plant.

However, Sepa expects monitoring of the water to continue until Thursday.

It is investigating the failure of pumping equipment and will later decide whether to take enforcement action.

The environmental protection agency said it expects the water quality to return to normal after a short period of time.

Emergency pumps were brought in after pumping problems at the Seafield plant in Leith resulted in the escape of millions of gallons of sewage.

Scottish Water has apologised for the "catastrophic failure" and said it was working on permanent repairs.

There has been an exceptionally large volume of untreated sewage discharged into the Forth over the last few days
Colin Bayes
Sepa official

The Seafield plant is managed by Thames Water under contract to Scottish Water.

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has questioned why the screened, untreated sewage was discharged.

Calum Duncan, the society's Scottish conservation manager, said: "Questions have to be asked about what back-up equipment exists in the event of a pump or other equipment failure.

"Given the choice of releasing the sewage to sea, or allowing it to backflow into people's homes, the correct decision was of course to allow it to be released to sea, but the most important question is why does no back-up system exist to prevent that decision having to be made in the first place?"

A meeting was held on Monday to discuss last Friday's failure.

It involved Edinburgh, Fife, West Lothian and East Lothian councils, Scottish Water, Thames Water, Sepa and NHS Lothian. There was also input from the food standards agency.

At the meeting it was agreed that there would be ongoing assessment and sampling of the water using the Bathing Water Quality Standard.

ADVICE TO RESIDENTS
Avoid contact with sea water in these areas - do not swim, paddle or participate in waterborne activities
If you visit a beach in these areas, stay above the high tide mark to avoid risk of contamination to shoes and clothes
Do not remove anything from these beaches
Do not let your pets exercise in these areas
Wash you hands carefully on return home, and before you eat, drink or smoke.
If you become unwell after visiting these beaches, particularly with symptoms such as sickness, diarrhoea, stomach cramps or fever, seek advice from your GP

It was also agreed that a statement of public health advice would be given in order to ensure a consistent message to all residents, visitors and businesses.

Despite dog-walkers continuing to use nearby beaches over the weekend NHS Lothian said there had been no complaints of sickness from people who had come into contact with the sewage.

However, an official added that the incubation of E.coli 0157 could take several days.

Colin Bayes, Sepa's director of environmental protection and improvement, said: "Obviously, this is a major incident and we are treating it as such. There has been an exceptionally large volume of untreated sewage discharged into the Forth over the last few days.

"A team of Sepa officers will begin on-site investigations at Seafield from Monday into the cause of the problem.

"Scientists will be taking samples on the south Forth estuary, including Cramond, Portobello Central and West, Fisherrow West, Seton Sands and Longniddry. These samples will be testing for microbiological quality."

An FSAS spokesman said: "As a result of the incident, fish or shellfish caught in the Firth of Forth after the spill began on Friday afternoon may be contaminated and could pose a health risk to consumers.

Map showing location of plant
The Seafield plant is on the outskirts of the city

"People should not eat food caught in the affected area and food should not be harvested or fished in this vicinity."

A Scottish Water spokeswoman said: "Flows into the Forth were screened as Thames Water used emergency overflow facilities.

"These are designed to protect the public. The flows into Seafield cannot be stopped without causing problems for the city and the emergency overflow was used under agreed procedures with Sepa after a failure of equipment.

"The partially treated waste water was discharged into the Forth. This is in line with UK practice. This removed solids and meant waste water flows would dilute more effectively when entering the Forth."

An East Lothian Council spokesman said it was continuing to monitor the situation and repeated health warnings to the public.

Fife Council said there was no sign of contamination on its side of the Forth.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Scenes from the beach near Edinburgh



SEE ALSO
Engineers stem huge sewage leak
23 Apr 07 |  Edinburgh and East
Warning over 'major' sewage spill
22 Apr 07 |  Edinburgh and East

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