02 May 2024

Defending the downstream ponds in Westhill

Works to restore and improve the ponds at Denman Park in Westhill continued with the installation of a downstream defender on 29 April that will help to stop pollutants from reaching the habitat. 

The popular ponds in Denman Park are home to a wide variety of pondlife and wildlife but have been subject to pollution from a range of sources in recent years. 

Outdoor paints, home cleaning chemicals, and garden chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides, and fertilisers have all been identified within the local drainage system, which also experiences litter from road drains and park visitors. 

The three ponds are visited by ducks, herons, and many small birds while also providing a habitat for freshwater hoglouse, pond skaters, water boatmen, diving beetles, minnows, pond snails, newts, caddisfly larvae, freshwater shrimp, and frogs. 

Aberdeenshire Council secured Scottish Government Nature Restoration Funds to help move the project forward in an effort to return the ponds to a healthy state. 

The Denman Park ponds receive water from local road drains surrounding the park—from Morvern Crescent near the golf course in the north, from Westhill Drive in the east, and from Westwood Grove in the west.

“If in any doubt about how to dispose of something safely, please seek advice and don’t pour it down the drain to cause harm to the environment.” — Scottish Water

The downstream defender unit will remove litter, road debris, and other solids that would otherwise reach the ponds via the local water drains. Once installed, Scottish Water will take ownership of its continued maintenance. 

Councillor Alan Turner said: “The three ponds in Denman Park are home to all manner of pond life that complement the park's popular, scenic greenspace and have been the topic of many school projects. 

“Local residents in that middle section of Westhilll can support the effort to improve the park’s environment for visitors and pondlife alike by ensuring that only rainwater is washed down surface water drains.” 

A Scottish Water spokesperson said: “In a lot of ways, the Denman Ponds are an excellent and well-established example of the way that surface water from urban areas can be managed at a local level in a way that is great for nature and for the local community. We are pleased to be working with Aberdeenshire Council, local residents and SEPA to address the challenges the ponds face from pollution. 

“The improvements being made will make a difference, but the need for this work reflects that what goes down the drain doesn’t disappear. The sewer network takes waste water from kitchens, toilets, bathrooms and washing machines to be treated so that it can be returned to the environment safely. Flushing anything apart from the 3 Ps – pee, poo and toilet paper – or slopping things like cooking fat, leftover sauces or soups down drains leads to blockages which can also cause flooding and pollution. Things like wet wipes, sanitary products and nappies should be binned and never flushed. 

“If in any doubt about how to dispose of something safely, please seek advice and don’t pour it down the drain to cause harm to the environment.” 

Residents should check that roof or garage rainwater drains are not connected to any washing machines, toilet or kitchen outfall pipes.  

If residents or businesses operating in the area are undertaking external painting, waterproofing, or cleaning works, they must not pour the leftovers—or the water used to clean the brushes and rollers—into the kerbside road drains as this will flow into the ponds. 

The installation of the downstream defender began on 29 April and, for at least nine weeks, the path into the park from the car park is closed.   

The road into the park and the tennis courts’ car park will remain open—except where temporary closures are needed to accommodate the delivery of large items and to allow maintenance access to the downstream defender unit. 

Scottish Water is also consistently undertaking improvement works to the surface water drainage network in Westhill, which will improve the quality of the water entering the ponds at Denman Park.  

Aberdeenshire Council will continue to monitor the health of the ponds and ensure that the polluted water warning signs remain in place. 

If visitors to Denman Park see and smell pollution in the ponds, they can phone... 

  • The Scottish Water helpline on 0800 0778 778,  

  • The pollution hotline number for SEPA on 0800 80 70 60, or  

  • Visit the SEPA online reporting platform: 

The Nature Restoration Fund specifically encourages applicants with projects that restore wildlife and habitats on land and sea and address the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change.