Trust expresses “regret” over East Sands blunder

east sands dredging exercise St Andrews
east sands dredging exercise St Andrews

St Andrews Harbour Trust has expressed “regret” after a dredging blunder led to tonnes of debris being deposited on East Sands.

Bathers were warned not to enter the water after dumper trucks left 40-50 piles of rubbish-strewn silt on the sands over the weekend, turning the water black.

The Scottish Environmental Agency (SEPA) and Marine Scotland, who were alerted to the incident by outraged residents, are still investigating.

The saga began on Friday when a contractor dredged debris from the floor of St Andrews harbour in preparation for phase two of the pontoon project.

But instead of sifting out rubbish and despositing silt elsewhere in the harbour, as stipulated in the original licence, trucks offloaded everything - including draining pipes, an oil drum, and bricks - directly onto East Sands.

A local surfer (44) said: “The water was so black, I could not see my feet in it.

“An electronic sign at East Sands said ‘pollution incident - you are advised not to bathe or paddle on the beach.’

She added: “On Friday and Saturday they were driving the dumper trucks into the sea and dumping rubbish straight into the water. That rubbish will never be seen again.

“It’s incredible. It beggars belief. Common sense dictates that this rubbish does not belong there.”

St Andrews Harbour Trust later said “an error” was made during the dredging process.

A spokesman said: “It was not the Trust’s intention to deposit the dredged material onto the beach and obviously 
the Trust regrets any inconvenience that has been caused.

“Since the error was recognised the Trust has been working hard and cooperating with SEPA and Marine Scotland to rectify the situation as quickly as possible.” He added that he hoped that the work would have been completed by Tuesday.

Harbourmaster Colin Brown said the contractors “were not quite as thorough as they should have been” in sifting out debris and “miscommunication” between the Trust and contractors had led to the blunder.

SEPA, which demanded and monitored a clean-up, recieved a number of complaints.

A spokesman added: “SEPA officers are currently undertaking an inspection of the beach as a designated EU bathing water and SEPA’s electronic sign at East Sands has been updated to advise against swimming or paddling in the water until all material has been safely removed.”

North East Fife MP Stephen Gethins is seeking answers from the Trust as well as writing to Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform.