Household rubbish more than half a century old is polluting a Perthshire river despite an £80,000 scheme to contain it.
Otters and beavers are living alongside the waste at the River Ericht east of Blairgowrie. Workers buried the now-emerging rubbish in landfill by the river decades ago.
A toothpaste tube appearing to be around 60 years old is among debris found at what should be a beauty spot for anglers.
Household rubbish, plastic bags and textiles can be seen seeping out of the river bank.
The source is a landfill site believed to have been used between the 1940s and 1970s.
River bank erosion is exposing the waste and allowing it to seep into the river.
It means the Special Area of Conservation is continually contaminated with landfill pollution.
The problem persists despite a recent £80,000 project to protect the river from the legacy of the historic landfill.
Risk to marine life
Local river convener Robert Kellie says plastic waste from the site will eventually be washed into the ocean.
And he says it is vital further damage to the river’s ecosystem is prevented.
“It can’t be good for the river,” he said.
“There are beavers on the river, there are otters and there are all sorts of wildfowl. Plastic is a risk to them.”
He also highlighted the threat to local salmon populations, which he said are vital to fishing and tourism, as well as the ecosystem.
“This is also a very important salmon spawning tributary for the whole of the Tay.”
Mr Kellie believes the site contains industrial waste from the area’s former textile factories as well as household rubbish.
“There’s clothing in it, and old chemical containers,” he added.
Just three years ago, Perth and Kinross Council completed a £80,000 project to remove landfilled waste, cap the site and reinforce the river bank.
The project came in under budget, having initially been estimated at £150,000.
Project managers made “significant savings” recycling waste taken from the site, thus eliminating landfill tax.
But huge quantities of rubbish are being exposed where the work ends.
Local volunteers recently cleared 51 bags of rubbish from a three-mile stretch of the river.
Mr Kellie says the work did not go far enough along the river bank.
He said one solution would be to divert the river away from the south bank where the damage is occurring.
“I think Sepa and the council should make some efforts to reinstate this, or move the river course back over,” he said.
Pollution ‘very concerning’
Local Conservative councillor Caroline Shiers visited the site on Wednesday.
She said: “It is clear that despite the recent project there is ongoing erosion and I am very concerned about the impact on the river and the environment.
“I have raised this already with officers at Perth and Kinross Council and I will contact Sepa.
“While I was at the river I met a number of dog walkers, fishermen and others enjoying a lovely sunny afternoon on the banks of the Ericht.
“It is very concerning to see the impact of the pollution on the natural environment.”
Sepa and council ‘aware’ of landfill pollution
A spokesperson for the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) said: “Sepa is aware of recent reports of erosion of an embankment and the potential for waste from a historical landfill site entering the River Ericht in Blairgowrie.
“In the last month, we have visually inspected the site. We continue to liaise with the landowner and the local authority to explore ways to stop any further erosion of the embankment.
A Perth and Kinross Council spokesman said the council is “aware of the situation”.
He said they are “in the process of considering how best to resolve the matter, including who would be responsible for funding any repairs, as it is on private land.
“With regard to any rubbish or chemical waste that may be falling into the river, this would be a matter for Sepa to address with the landowner and not the council.”