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Sewage Swamps River in Scotland

The so-called first world seems to be catching up fast with the third world whether it is infant mortality rates or sewage connection.//

Only last fortnight it was reported that Galway, the third largest city in Ireland was reeling under a major water crisis, with scores taking ill because of water contamination.

Now the news comes from another part of the United Kingdom, Scotland, that raw sewage has been pouring into the river Forth, posing a serious threat to public health.

Engineers have been working through the night in a bid to halt the discharge of raw sewage into the river.

As much as a hundred million litres of partially diluted sewage, enough to fill 170 Olympic-sized swimming pools, may have been discharged after a pump failed at Seafield Wastewater Treatment Plant in Leith on Friday afternoon.

The sewage has been pumping into the Forth at the rate of up to 1,000 litres a second since then.

The plant, run by Thames Water, treats sewage for 800,000 people in and around Edinburgh.

A functionary of a local residents association lashed out at the equipment at the plant, saying it was "third-world technology", and said that they had been campaigning for years over the odour emanating from the plant.

First Minister Jack McConnell has called for an investigation into the incident.

The public is still being advised to avoid contact with the shoreline on Edinburgh's waterfront.

Many residents have complained they were not informed quickly enough that beaches might be contaminated.

The treatment plant is run by the Scottish Water which is a state-owned company that provides water and sewerage services.

Helen Lennox, Scottish Water's head of corporate affairs, apologised to customers for the inconvenience caused. She said: "This was a catastrophic failure at a pumping station and we have been working around the clock to fix it.

"O n investigation our engineers found the repair was a much larger operation than first anticipated and we have had to locate specialist pumps from other parts of the UK."

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) has already said emergency measures to "minimize the risk of pollution" were being put in place and has warned the public not to come into contact with the water.

Gordon Greenhill, head of community safety at Edinburgh Council, said the sewage spill raised public health concerns but added it would not be a long-term environmental problem.

"The volume of sewage going into the Forth estuary is a concern as it has the capacity to come back on to the shore," he said.

"Any raw sewage has human pathogens in it which has the capacity to make people ill."

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