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Pollution of Rivers Enquiry


On Monday, Sir William Denison, and the other commissioners engaged this inquiry visited Linlithgow. They met, by arrangement, with a number of the county gentlemen, the Provost, Magistrates, and Town Council of Linlithgow, within the County Hall.

Colonel Gillon of Wallhouse was called to the chair, and the object and scope of the inquiry proposed by the commissioners having been explained to the meeting, Provost Dawson alluded to the water supply of the burgh of Linlithgow, which he said was gradually decreasing. Councillor Hardy corroborated the Provost's remarks, and was opinion that the spring from which the water supply of the town was principally derived had been seriously affected the extensive drainage of the land as now universally adopted in the vicinity of Linlithgow. Mr Hog of Newliston called the attention of the Commissioners to the state of the river Almond, once a pure clear stream, but now much polluted by the escape into it of the refuse of paraffin oil from the shale works at Broxburn.

The smell from the stream upon certain occasions, he said, was very offensive, and must have the effect rendering the water useless if not dangerous to cattle. Mr Cadell of Grange gave a similar statement regarding the river Avon, which, he said, he, along with some others, had examined in 1862, when Young's chemical works were in their most flourishing condition, and found that the river was then being destroyed by the flow of oil into from the Bathgate Chemical Works. He had reason to believe that the river was not so bad now as formerly, but still not all what it should be.

The chairman said that, from personal knowledge, he could testify as to the truth of Mr Cadell's observations. Sir W. Denison said that samples of the water in the rivers Almond and Avon would be taken both above and below the places complained of, and be submitted to analysis. Provost Dawson then alluded to the condition of the Union Canal, the water of which had also been deteriorated by paraffin to a greater or less extent for several years. This water had some time ago got into the fountain head of the West Port well and seriously injured it. The evil was partially remedied the time, but the small streams the district were still periodically polluted by the discharge of water from the sluices when the Canal happened to be too full, and this water, of course, found its way into the various rivers and burns.

The Provost also alluded to fact that from the position of the town, the loch became the receptacle of its entire drainage, which had already been, and must course of time be, still farther polluted. Sir W. Denison observed that the proper drainage of the town was more matter for the consideration of the Local Authorities than of the present inquiry. Provost Dawson said that the loch was under the control and superintendence of the department of Woods and Forests, and it appeared to him that its present condition might with advantage be discussed. After some further observations had been made, the Commissioners intimated that they would return to Linlithgow again in about six weeks, when any statement of facts submitted to them pertinent to the subject under inquiry would receive their best attention.


From the Falkirk Herald, 4th August 1870

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