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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 April 2007, 16:44 GMT 17:44 UK
Hope for quick pollution recovery
Sepa officer at Portobello Beach
A Sepa official takes water samples at Portobello Beach
Environment experts believe the Firth of Forth should recover quickly from a huge sewage leak at the weekend.

Edinburgh Council officials said that while beach-goers should stay away from the water for now, the coastline could be back to normal within days.

Environment body Sepa has carried out initial tests at 14 locations between South Queensferry and Portobello.

Sepa also said its initial results from elsewhere in the estuary did not show a "lasting effect" from the spillage.

Pumping equipment at the Seafield Wastewater Treatment Plant in Leith failed at 1630 BST on Friday and the problem was not fully rectified until Monday morning.

We're not entirely surprised by the results as we know that a large water body like the Firth of Forth can often cope with one-off incidents like this
Colin Bayes
Sepa official

During that period, millions of litres of sewage spilled into the Firth of Forth.

Edinburgh council leader Ewan Aitken reiterated a warning to people to avoid contact with sea water in the area until further results have been obtained on Thursday.

Food hygiene officials have also reminded people not to eat fish captured in the estuary for the time being.

Mr Aitken said: "Early results from our water sampling tests and those carried out by Sepa are very encouraging.

Portobello Beach
Parents have been keeping their children off the sand at Portobello

"We hope that people will be back on the beaches as early as the weekend, but for now we would ask people to exercise caution and adhere to the guidelines we have produced."

Colin Bayes, Sepa's director of environmental protection and improvement, said: "These initial results give us confidence that we won't see a lasting effect on the Forth.

"However, we are carrying out further reassurance monitoring on Tuesday. More detailed results will become available through the week.

"We're not entirely surprised by the results as we know that a large water body like the Firth of Forth can often cope with one-off incidents like this.

"That said, it is still a serious incident and we continue to treat it as such."

High-tide marks

Residents in the areas affected - West and East Lothian, Edinburgh and Fife to the north - have been warned not to use the sea until Thursday at the earliest.

Beach-goers are also being urged to stay behind high-tide marks and wash their hands after every visit.

The Food Standards Agency Scotland said fish or shellfish should not be caught or harvested in the area until the results showed it was safe to eat.

It said: "The agency is taking this precautionary approach because sewage can contain micro-organisms and other contaminants which can accumulate in these products, particularly shellfish, and may pose a health risk to consumers if eaten."

John Rae, Scottish Water's general manager of customer operations said: "This first set of results reported by Sepa, which confirm that the water quality in the area is meeting European standards for bathing water, is reassuring.

"The overspill into the Firth of Forth itself was partially treated and extremely diluted."

Forth sewage warnings reissued
23 Apr 07 |  Edinburgh and East
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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