Fisherrow Sands is no longer a designated bathing water, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has announced.

Whilst importantly this does not mean the beach is closed, it does mean that Fisherrow Sands is no longer a designated bathing water.  

It follows confirmation that 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. 

SEPA has explained that 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.

Councillor Norman Hampshire, Cabinet Spokesperson for the Environment, said:

“Whilst the beach remains open, SEPA has advised that general advice against bathing should now apply at Fisherrow Sands in line with the requirements of bathing water regulations. We recognise that over recent years, work has been undertaken by SEPA, Scottish Water and Scottish Government working with the council and other stakeholders to improve water quality, with further improvements planned.

“This has included improvements to the Eastfield Pumping Station as well as improvements to the Scottish Water sewerage network. There is also a focus on addressing issues associated with overflows and discharges to the Brunstane Burn and reduced spills from a combined sewer overflow at Portobello.

“We have been in discussions with SEPA and Scottish Water about this matter and are keen that steps are taken to deliver improvements to water quality in the area. Fisherrow Sands is a popular location and users of the beach will want to see that this is addressed as quickly as possible.

“Our understanding is that, if sampling can demonstrate an improvement in quality, steps can be taken to re-designate the location as a bathing water with a classification of ‘sufficient’ or better if applicable.

“The council will continue to liaise with SEPA and Scottish Water on this matter and be supportive of partnership working and solutions which can lead to the required improvements.” 

As Fisherrrow will be considered a former bathing water with general advice against bathing, SEPA has advised that it is not able to display daily water quality predictions on its 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. It hopes 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.

The latest updates are available online. 

In addition to the planned infrastructure improveents, SEPA and Scottish Water say that there are simple steps members of the public can take to help improve the local environment:

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 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 Water's 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
Published: Tuesday, 16th June 2020