It was revealed this week that Stonehaven beach was one of two beaches out of the 83 tested in the whole of Scotland to have failed EU quality standards for bathing this summer.
Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) monitored 83 bathing waters in Scotland over the course of the summer and 81 of these achieved the mandatory “pass” rating - leaving only Stonehaven and Heads of Ayr failing the overall season compliance under the current EU Bathing Waters Directive.
SEPA blamed this year’s heavy rainfall on the situation and said it can cause sewers to overflow. This was partly attributed to a problem on the Maxie Burn, but it is thought that the contaminant had consisted of raw human excreta from a collapsed sewer around the Westfield area.
The sewer collapsed in early July but it had apparently taken Scottish Water a full week to get round to repairing it.
Stonehaven beach was reported as having two or more water samples with excessive faecal contamination since testing began in May.
Stonehaven and Lower Deeside Councillor Wendy Agnew, who has been campaigning for a new, quieter sewage generator for residents near Maxie Burn said: “In this day and age it’s ridiculous. Environmental Health told Scottish Water to sort the problem out but Scottish Water said they needed more money if they were to install a quieter generator and that’s what was stopping them.
“They could have warned anglers and the burn runs right through Mineralwell Park where children play by the water side. It’s the same with the White Bridge at the Carron, sewage and rainfall are mixed together in a tank and when it overflows the sewage then drips into the burn and SEPA allow Scottish Water to do that”.
Failure to meet the SEPA requirements puts bathers at risk of serious infections.
Fellow Stonehaven and Lower Deeside councillor, Peter Bellarby, said: “I am disappointed that Stonehaven has failed to meet the requirements. Stonehaven is a prime tourist destination and the locals too have every right to expect that the sea water is safe. “I am glad that electronic signs were put up warning bathers when pollution levels are high but this only happened after there had been a pollution problem on the Maxie Burn.
“It has been most unpleasant for residents with properties alongside Maxie Burn as they have been exposed to raw sewage. Scottish Water has been working to remedy the problem but this does involve putting a new pipe under the railway line. I realise that this is not an easy task but I have urged Scottish Water to complete the works as soon as possible.
“Scottish Water and SEPA need to be vigilant and respond quickly when a problem arises.”
A Scottish Water spokesperson said: “Scottish Water plays a significant role in protecting the natural environment of Scotland’s coastal waters, rivers and lochs.
“Audit Scotland has reported that diffuse pollution – the surface water run off from roads, farm land and paving – is the major source of pollution in our rivers and coastal waters. We are currently constructing a permanent solution to address the issue which caused this sewer to collapse.”