Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response

Fisherrow Sands

Scotland’s 2020 bathing season has been designated by Scottish Government as 15 July to 15 September. Fisherrow Sands is now a former bathing water, with notices in place locally to advise of this.

 Fisherrow Sands

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Fisherrow Sands - Addressing Bathing Water Quality

As you may be aware, in light of Scotland's continuing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Scottish Government has not designated bathing waters for the 2020 season and has recently consulted on proposals to keep this under review across the summer.

You may also be aware that over recent years, significant work has been undertaken by SEPA, Scottish Water and Scottish Government working with the Local authority and wider stakeholders to improve water quality at Fisherrow Sands.  To date, around £3 million has already been invested to improve bathing water quality in the area, and further spend is planned.

Working together, public partners are focused on:

  1. Addresing misconnections 

    A misconnection is when a home or business has wrongly connected their plumbing into the surface watersystem, which eventually discharges into rivers or streams (here the Brunstane Burn) instead of the public sewerage network where it is treated. Multiple misconnections have been addressed through a Scottish Water led project funded by Scottish Government.

  2. Improvements to Eastfield Pumping Station 

    Scottish Water have undertaken substantial improvements to Eastfield pumping station, which can overflow to the Brunstane Burn close to the beach during heavy rainfall. During 2019 this pumping station overflowed more than it should have done, with further anticipated improvements across 2020.

  3. Sewerage Network Improvements

    Scottish Water have made improvements to their sewerage network so there should be a reduction in spills from Fillyside combined sewer overflow at Portobello.

  4. Addressing Litter and Dog Fouling

Litter and dog fouling levels have been reduced by a Scottish Government funded My Beach Your Beach campaign undertaken by Keep Scotland Beautiful.

Despite the above, Fisherrow Sands ended the 2019 bathing water season with a ‘poor’ water quality classification.  Although, the water quality frequently met bathing water quality standards, the classification is based on the previous four years’ results, some of which have been impacted both by pollution following heavy rainfall and historical problems.

With Fisherrow Sands having been classified as poor for five consecutive years, the Bathing Water (Scotland) Regulations require that for 2020, general advice against bathing should now apply at this location.  This advice should be read in conjunction with important public health messaging and the fact no bathing waters have, to date, been designated across Scotland for the 2020 period. 

Whilst importantly this does not mean the beach is closed, it does mean that Fisherrow Sands is no longer a designated bathing water.  Notices will be put in place shortly, on a local authority board and on the SEPA sign board.  The posters, in addition to information supplied directly to local stakeholders, indicate general advice against bathing.

Bathing water quality at Fisherrow is variable on a day-to-day basis.  Of 21 water quality samples taken in 2019, the majority were in line with the good or excellent standards of the Regulations.  However, with Scotland’s maritime climate, Fisherrow, like many of many of Scotland’s bathing waters, experiences occasional poor water quality caused by heavy rainfall which can last 1-2 days.

As Fisherrrow is a former bathing water with general advice against bathing, SEPA is not therefore able to display daily water quality predictions on our website and at the beach.  In addition, given the current public health restrictions, SEPA’s 2020 sampling program at all beaches is yet to be determined. We hope to be able to undertake sampling at Fisherrow in due course to demonstrate improved water quality and any sampling results will be available upon request.

SEPA will, of course, respond to significant environmental events where attendance is essential to minimise the impact on the environment or communities, and we would respond to environmental events causing significant community concern.

At this stage, we’re not able to comment on a timeline for future designation of beaches, including Fisherrow. We’re working hard with public partners to maximise the impact of the £3m invested to date, on future investment and on our targeted bathing water quality improvement plan.

We’ll keep you informed of progress with our regulated operators and partner organisations including on timelines forimprovements so that in future the advice against bathing may be withdrawn. You can report a pollution incident online by clicking here,

How you can help

Whilst infrastructure changes have been needed to improve water quality, there are actions you can take to maintain these improvements:

At the beach

  • Bin your litter or take it home to recycle. 
  • Don’t feed the gulls, bird poo pollutes the water. 
  • Bag and bin dog waste, dog poo pollutes the water.
  • If you see a pollution incident, report it online at www.sepa.org.uk/report.

At home

  • Keep the water cycle running smoothly. In the bathroom only flush the 3Ps, pee, poo and paper. In the kitchen, dispose of fats, oils and grease safely. See Scottish Waters website for information
  • Ensure any future property repairs or improvements are connected right.  If wastewater or sewage is connected to a surface water drain you may be polluting your local river or beach.
  • If your property has a septic tank, regularly check and maintain to make sure it is working correctly.