River hit by new oil slick

AN INVESTIGATION is under way after an oil spill polluted the Water of Leith for the second time in six months.

The pollution was first spotted back in November but environmental officers were unable to trace the source.

Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) officers were out again yesterday after a slick reappeared in the same place.

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The spill was spotted by 48-year-old security supervisor William Cochrane, who lives in nearby Saughton Loan and walks his dog along the riverside every day.

He said: "It's definitely some form of industrial affluent.

"When the sun hits it you get that distinctive rainbow effect, and it smells very much like diesel.

"There was a similar spill towards the end of last year, which I reported to SEPA and they sent someone out to investigate.

"They told me that they had managed to find the outlet where the stuff was coming from, but they were unable to trace the source.

"It's quite worrying as there is a lot of wildlife in the river.

"There are two swans nesting in the section of the river that's covered by the spill, and it could potentially have serious consequence for them.

"I also noticed a family of newly-hatched ducklings on the river last week, but they seem to have disappeared."

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The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said it was monitoring the situation closely, and was awaiting an update from SEPA to discover if the spill is toxic to birds.

The Water of Leith Conservation Trust said it received more than 20 calls about the spill yesterday, and has been receiving regular updates from SEPA.

Manager Helen Brown said: "I would think the adult birds would be able to cope with the pollution, but some of the chicks may have problems.

"Because their fur is so fluffy, if they get any of the pollution on them it could affect their buoyancy.

"The spill appears to be flowing from a culverted stream, a sort of man-made tributary that flows from Craiglockhart, through Gorgie and down into the Water of Leith at Murrayfield.

"The area covered by this stream is massive so I understand they're having some difficulty tracing the source.

"The stream is designed to carry flood water into the stream, but we've not had any downpours recently, so the most likely explanation is someone pouring something down a storm drain, or a spill from a generator or some other machine."

SEPA has issued a reminder to the public not to pour industrial chemicals or waste oils down storm drains.

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A SEPA spokeswoman said: "These drains are designed to deal with rain water and run-off and, in the case of surface water drains, generally do not go through any form of treatment before they discharge into local watercourses.

"Just one litre of spilled oil can result in a large surface area being covered in an oil film, and even a small amount can have an impact on the environment.

"We would like to thank the people who have contacted us about this incident, allowing us to investigate. Getting details quickly will mean we can begin investigations early and take effective action as necessary."