Scottish Water ‘on track’ to install new sewage monitors

A generic image of water treatment

By Andrew Picken

BBC Scotland News

Nearly three quarters of the 1,000 extra sewage monitors promised by Scottish Water have still to be installed, the company has said.

The utility firm has installed 272 monitors so far and said it is on track to do the rest by the end of 2024.

Scottish Water unveiled plans in 2021 to install more devices to track how much waste is being discharged from sewage pipes into rivers and seas.

Campaigners have called for more checks on sewage discharges.

This is because only about 4% of Scotland’s 31,000-mile sewer network is currently monitored, compared to 89% in England.

When there are periods of heavy rain parts of the country’s sewer network simply cannot cope.

To stop sewage backing up into homes, storm water and waste that would ordinarily go to Scottish Water treatment centres is released into seas or rivers through more than 3,600 Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) dotted across the country.

Before Scottish Water made its current pledge, only 123 of these CSOs had monitors that check for spills.

Data from Scottish Water monitors shows the number of discharges into Scotland’s waters is increasing.

In 2018, a total of 9,468 spills were recorded but by 2022 this tally had jumped to 14,008.

Graphic explaining how combined sewer systems work

The recorded discharges – many of which were from overflow pipes close to popular beaches and wildlife habitats – included overflows that lasted just a few minutes but some were for several days.

The vast majority of spills are made up of rainwater but they can also include sewage.

Untreated sewage contains bacteria such as E.coli and viruses like hepatitis which can be harmful to animals and humans.

The Marine Conservation Society is calling for the publicly-owned Scottish Water to be forced to monitor and report on all discharges from storm overflows by 2026 at the latest.

The charity also wants to see “progressive spill reduction targets” to tackle the problem.

Illegal discharges

A Scottish Water spokesperson said: “As of December 20 we had installed 272 monitors so far and remain on track to have installed 1,000 by the end of 2024.”

A total of 87% of water bodies in Scotland have been classified as good or better status for water quality by environment watchdog Sepa.

There has been extensive criticism of water firms in England over the last few years about the high number of raw sewage discharges and the impact on the UK’s waterways.

England’s Environment Agency is carrying out a criminal investigation into potentially illegal discharges by all water companies.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *