Bathing waters stakeholder group issue statement following SEPA’s announcement on classification for Nairn beaches
Issued by The Highland Council on behalf of the Stakeholder group
The Nairn bathing waters stakeholder group has noted the SEPA news that the bathing water classification for Nairn beaches will remain in the ‘poor’ category for 2017. The classification was expected as the new scheme looks back at four years of data and unfortunately some high results were found in 2013. These were thought to have been caused by a few very severe rainfall incidents.
The Nairn bathing waters stakeholder group was formed in June of this year and has a wide group of members from the local community and the key agencies of the Highland Council, Scottish Water and SEPA. The group has meet on three occasions and a number of actions have already been undertaken as part of the long term aim to improve the quality of bathing waters at Nairn.
Chairman of the group, Councillor Michael Green said: “Nairn has excellent facilities at its beaches and it is important that we continue the productive work the stakeholder group has being doing to improve the bathing water classification. Through the group SEPA and Scottish Water have carried out further surveys this summer of the local sewage system.
“The group have had detailed discussions on the investments Scottish Water have made and are planning for the Nairn area, and also on the valuable work being done by SEPA on diffuse pollution in the river Nairn catchment area. In 2017, this work will continue and we are also planning local campaigns to emphasise the work the public and businesses can do to help the sewer system works at its best. Along with Highland Council Leader Margaret Davidson and Community representatives, I will be meeting representatives from Scottish Water on November 4th to discuss their capital investment programme for Nairn. The Council are committed to supporting the stakeholder group.”
Calum McPhail, from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency’s Environmental Quality Unit, said: “SEPA understands that the local community will be disappointed, as we are, that for a second year, both Nairn Central and Nairn East Bathing Waters are expected to be classified as ‘poor’ under the overall EU classification scheme which uses four years of data.
“It is important to remember that a ‘poor’ classification does not necessarily mean that water quality is continually poor. These are still fantastic beaches to visit, and our electronic information signs provide advice and details about any current water quality issues at both of these bathing waters.
“We are committed to continuing to work with our key partner organisations, including Community Councils, Business and Tourism interests, Council elected members, and Scottish Water, to improve bathing water quality.
“SEPA is already carrying out farm inspections in the River Nairn catchment to help reduce contaminated rainwater run-off entering the river, and is developing a plan for tackling rural sewage disposal. In addition to this, SEPA is in contact with Scottish Water to explore what further improvements may be required to the sewer infrastructure and treatment works.”
Kevin McCreath, Scottish Water, said: “Scottish Water is committed to protection of the environment and Nairn’s bathing waters. We are working with SEPA and the Council to ensure the public waste water system continues to be operated and maintained in accordance with best practice.”
Brian Stewart of Nairn Residents' Concern Group [who chaired Wednesday's meeting], speaking on behalf of local community groups and organisations, said:
"It is disappointing that Nairn's bathing beach water is expected to be classified "poor" for another year. The quality of Nairn's water and its natural environment are important to local residents and businesses, and to the town's reputation and prospects as a tourist destination.
“The evidence on the ground, and the discharges into the river (whether authorised or not), underline that the local drainage and sewage network suffers overload and is unable to cope at peak times. We are encouraged that this has been recognised. We cannot simply hope to be lucky with the weather.
“Looking forward, we are keen to move from a focus on sample-testing and warning signs about the levels of water-contamination, to a proactive strategy which tackles the causes of the problem and reduces pollution. We therefore continue to press for a reconsideration of priorities both for current operational work and future investment, in order to deliver specific further actions which address the sources of contamination and improve the capacity and resilience of the network.
“This remains a challenging task. I think we are moving in the right direction. The stakeholder group offers a useful framework for productive dialogue, and we appreciate the engagement of SEPA, Scottish Water and the Highland Council as members. We will continue to collaborate and work with all the responsible authorities in the development and delivery of their Improvement Plan for the Nairn area, and look forward to further practical discussions with all concerned."