A MUSSELBURGH beach is one of four in Scotland that has received a ‘poor’ rating for the fourth year in a row due to human ‘faecal pollution’.

Fisherrow Sands in Musselburgh was rated ‘poor’ by environmental agency SEPA in its latest report as a result of low water quality.

If the beach fails for a fifth time, it will have to be declared permanently unsafe, which means that signs will be erected to warn potential bathers of the risk.

The report stated that water quality was especially low after poor weather as “heavy rainfall washes faecal material into the sea”.

It adds: “Bathing is not advised during or one to two days after heavy rainfall.

“DNA tracing indicated that human sources are contributing to faecal pollution of the bathing water.”

The report names many reasons for the poor water quality, noting that it is not just pollution flowing straight into the sea that is the problem but pollution carried in by the River Esk and the Brunstane Burn.

The Brunstane Burn receives “intermittent discharges” from the Eastfield Sewage Pumping Station and the Portobello Cemetery combined sewer overflow, though the report does note that “a Scottish Water study determined that some of their assets are impacting water quality at Fisherrow. Options are being developed to address these”.

A Scottish Water spokeswoman said: “We are carrying out various network adjustments to ensure flows from our network are operating as they should be.

“This includes replacing a sewer valve in the Nantwich Drive area which should reduce the number and volume of spills from the sewer network and help improve bathing water at Portobello and Fisherrow.

“We are also investigating possible sewer misconnections at properties where extensions have been built in the area and, where needed, will carry out repairs.”

The beach itself has two licensed combined sewer overflow discharges and “a number of combined sewer overflows and emergency overflows discharge into the river Esk”.

A spokesperson for SEPA added that it was hoped “to see further improvements in water quality in the coming months and years”.

“Scottish Water are undertaking improvement works which are expected to have a positive impact on the bathing water quality at Fisherrow Sands,” they added.

“It is important to remember that a ‘poor’ classification does not necessarily mean that water quality is continually poor on all days.”

They added that up-to-date information could be found at sepa.org.uk/bath ingwaters, via SEPA’s Beachline on 08452 303089 or at live electronic signs at Fisherrow Sands.

A spokesperson for East Lothian Council said: “We work with a range of partners and stakeholders to identify and aim to resolve issues that can have a negative impact. Each bathing water presents its own unique water quality challenges.

“Our 12 other bathing waters are classified as Excellent or Good.

“Working with partners, we’re continuing our focus on Fisherrow Sands with tailored improvement plans, prepared by SEPA, under way.

“In conjunction with Keep Scotland Beautiful, the council supported a My Beach, Your Beach campaign at Fisherrow Sands over the summer. This focused on addressing dog fouling, littering and gull feeding in order to help improve the bathing water quality and protect the local environment. This will run again this year at Fisherrow.”

Veronica Noone, of Fisherrow Waterfront Group, said: “We are working closely with SEPA, Scottish Water and the Scottish Government to address water issues.

“We are confident that with the capital and improvement programmes currently under way, and additional more frequent monitoring planned, we will get an improvement to ‘fair’ next year. From this, our aim is to get better quality each year and ultimately go for best beach status in the future.

“Locals and visitors alike need to keep an eye on the bulletin board, which provides up-to-date information on water quality and appropriateness for bathing.”

Ward councillor Katie Mackie was “hopeful” Fisherrow Sands would not receive a poor rating this year.

Fellow ward councillor John Williamson was “confident” work to tackle the issue would “result in improved water quality and that bathing will be safe”.

Ward councillor Andy Forrest said it was “disappointing” and “SEPA needs to do more work to ensure the storage of raw sewage is not compromised by heavy rain”.