We can’t muddy the waters 
any longer

Ducks swim through the algae
Ducks swim through the algae
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It looked stunning in the summer sunshine when huge crowds watched some of the world’s top athletes in Commonwealth Games action.

The triathlon at Strathclyde Park was an unqualified success, providing economic spin-offs for the area and - via global television - showing off the park as a major leisure attraction.

However, only a few weeks later and with the Games banners still in place, the loch that’s the park centrepiece was closed to users on health grounds.

It stayed that way until last week when high levels of algae, which can cause sickness, had, finally, subsided enough to allow rowers and others back on the water.

Now demands to tackle the poor water quality are growing and Motherwell and Wishaw MSP John Pentland is to raise the issue at a meeting with the chairman of Scotland’s environment agency, SEPA, next week.

Mr Pentland will have with him photos taken by regular park visitor Barrie Reddington which we publish today.

These were taken just a few weeks ago when a slimy, green substance had formed a layer around shallow parts of the loch.

Mr Reddington, of North Motherwell, said: “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was like thick, green soup, about an inch thick.

“There was also a white, milk-like substance in parts. What is this stuff?

“I feed the ducks at the loch and I’m concerned at their behaviour this year. I’ve never seen them so aggressive and I wonder if they are being affected by the water.”

Mr Pentland said: “These pictures are frightening. There was talk of a Commonwealth Games legacy for this area - some legacy!”

Closure of the loch and signs warning people to stay away from the water are nothing new. The authorities say blue green algae is ‘naturally occurring’ in open water and Strathclyde Park isn’t unique in being affected.

However, Strathclyde Park Rowing Club members can’t remember ever being off the water for so long as this year.

Algae isn’t the only problem as the South Calder Water - still polluted as it runs through the former Ravenscraig site - pours into the loch.

What’s more, Scottish Water is licensed to dump sewage into the loch via the South Calder when the system overloads at times of heavy rain.

More than £1 million was spent on a barrier and treatment programme which allowed a section of the loch to be used for the swimming leg of the Games triathlon.

However, that was only a temporary measure as the barrier cut across the international standard rowing course and had to be removed eventually.

Work to upgrade Scotland’s outdated sewage system is painfully slow, but Mr Pentland believes priority should be given to a scheme that would clean up the loch.

He said; “The loch should be accessible for people all year round. In this day and age how can it be right that an authority is licensed to discharge sewage into a public loch?”

Park owner North Lanarkshire Council wants to build on the Games success and attract further big events. However, in recent years it has lost a European Triathlon Union meeting and the Great Scottish Swim because of the poor water quality.

We showed the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds the photos of ducks and swans, but the organisation didn’t seem too perturbed.

A spokesman said the bird’s own faeces might actually contribute to the conditions which produce algal blooms.

He added: “Ducks and swans are potentially vulnerable to the toxins produced by the algae in the same way as other animals. Algal blooms usually recede when seasonal temperatures drop.”

A SEPA spokesman blamed the warm, dry summer for the prolonged closure of the loch.

He said: “This year’s blue-green algal bloom was present for a longer period than in recent years. However, the levels of cyanobacteria are not considered to be any more intense than previously.”

A council spokesman said: “Algae is very unlikely to cause any harm to geese or swans. Their digestive systems can cope and it wouldn’t do them any harm.

“We are not aware of the birds being any more aggressive than usual, although we would always ask park visitors to keep a safe distance.”