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"Mysterious" water source keeps Midlothian steps closed

Steps in a Midlothian park have been closed since January 2016 because of landslip problems caused by an unidentified water source.

The steps from Cemetery Road to the Ironmills Park were repaired in November 2016, when the council installed a larch retaining wall with netting and pinning work. There was little movement on the slope and it appeared to be moderately dry, according to the council.

However by July 2017, the council said it was “still experiencing issues of materials running off the area above the cliff face” which they believed was caused by a water outflow on the slope, appearing from below the retaining wall.

Midlothian Council has been trying to find the source of the water flows ever since.

In a statement last week the council apologised for the continued closure of the steps: “There are still a number of issues on the slope which have hindered progress of works to reopen them, including two water sources that appear on the slope intermittently. Despite exhaustive tests it is still not clear what is causing these flows.

“A design for new steps and rails remains with our structures team and we are committed to finding a solution which will lead to the reopening of the steps, one which ensures users are not put at risk in any way. It is also important that the solution be cost effective for the Council.

Ironmills Steps in Dalkeith

A recent image of the Ironmills Steps

In July 2017, council staff dug out an area at the top of the slope down to 2m to 3m to ascertain whether the problem was caused by a water flow and several weeks later a water flow, equivalent to a couple of hose pipes, materialised.

The council believed the water source was welling up from 4m down as the only water found when test bores were undertaken during initial site investigations was at this depth. The council has been exploring ways to manage the water source using modular plastic cells/crates and piping the outflow to the adjacent river.

“Managing this water source is essential in securing the long term stability of the slope and the reopening of the route,” the council said at the time.

Scottish Water have also checked the entire local network for leaks from the water mains and the sewage system in the vicinity and no leaks have been reported.

In the latest statement from the council, it said that “members of the land and countryside team will be meeting with the community council in early March to discuss the steps and will issue an update at that time. We will also strive to provide some timescales at that time”.


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