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DUNNET WATER QUALITY ACTION 2 October 03

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency, SEPA, has helped to improve the water quality in the Dunnet Bay catchment area by working with a local business and farms. Dunnet Bay is officially recognised as bathing water and SEPA's Thurso office carried out an action plan in 2002 to investigate the potential impact of industrial and farming activity in the catchment.

SEPA worked with Norfrost to improve the quality of the Stangergill burn, which is the main watercourse in the area. After discussion with SEPA, the company took action to reduce its impact on the burn, including:

       installing a new interceptor to divert surface water from the site to the sewerage system
       setting up a new inspection and maintenance rota for the site's oil interceptor
       installing a new oil interceptor to collect oil from an unidentified source.

Since these changes there have been no reports of any oil contamination in the burn.


Dunnet From The Air

SEPA staff also visited 14 farms, and 15 houses with septic tanks, in the catchment. The vast majority was in good order but SEPA provided advice to help ensure that they all followed good environmental practice. Minor improvements at a few sites were required. Finally, SEPA officers also investigated an old restored landfill as a potential source of pollution, but found no signs of contamination.

Chris Matthews of SEPA's Pentland Team said: "Although these actions may individually seem minor, together they can make a real difference to the quality of the environment. One of our challenges is to deal with 'diffuse' pollution, usually caused by a combination of small inputs to water from a variety of sources. We're not talking about people who are negligently or wilfully polluting the environment, or who are necessarily breaking any laws, which is an ideal situation for SEPA's preferred partnership working approach.

"Dunnet Bay has experienced better water quality this year, although it has been a very dry summer. A 3.2km stretch of the bay has improved to 'good' quality, mainly because of changes to sewage treatment, over the last few years. The long term picture for water quality in the catchment is positive. SEPA hopes to continue working with all  elements of the local community to improve the quality and habitat of Stangergill burn. We will also continue to monitor water quality and to take action, where appropriate, to improve it."