The Scottish river takes the color of “Irn Bru” after the discharge of the historic mine


The South Esk River in the Midlothian has turned bright orange with fears about the potential impact of the change on local wildlife.

The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) has been contacted by several residents in the area concerned about the discoloration of the water. They say the orange color comes from the water discharge from historic Dalkeith mining sites. This water contains natural metals from the extracted rocks, but when it flows into the river, it settles on the bed causing an orange coloration.

SEPA says work is underway to install a mine water treatment system next year to address the recurring problem.

We reported almost exactly a year ago how infuriated people were with the same problem, fearing that small animals would be killed in “acidic” water. The Forth Rivers Trust said the red iron oxide in mine water coats invertebrates that live on the bottom, and minerals such as manganese can have a toxic effect.

Dalkeith resident Willie Gilbertson said Edinburgh live this week, he fears that kingfishers may not be able to see into the water to grab their food, and that the discolored water could impact the food chain if it continues.

Willie said: “It’s been happening for many years, but it’s definitely the worst I’ve seen.

“I shared a video on the local Dalkeith forums and a lot of people have talked about it. I know this has been reported to SEPA as well.

“I’m a nature lover and I’m just a little concerned about the impact it might have. It’s an important time for kingfishers and other creatures on the water, and how are they supposed to see in the river. You could ‘I can’t see two centimeters in it.’

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Willie Gilbertson worries about the impact of the Orange River on wildlife

Willie, who is part of the local Riverfly Trust, shared a video with Edinburgh Live taken at Dalkeith Country Park that shows the extent of the discoloration. He calls for urgent work to remedy the problem.

SEPA says anyone concerned about the issue should report it to them.

A spokesperson said: “SEPA would like to thank members of the public for reporting the discoloration of the South Esk River. We are aware of this recurring problem and are working with the Coal Authority to assess and mitigate mine water releases from historic Dalkeith mine sites.

“Water from mining sites contains natural metals, such as iron, from the rocks extracted. When mine water flows into a river, iron settles on the river bed, causing the orange coloring. These impacts increase during periods of dry weather when less dilution is available in the river.

“The Coal Authority is working to design a solution and secure funding to implement a mine water treatment program next year.

“We encourage people to report any changes in the river using our 24 hour online form at www.sepa.org.uk/report. ”


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