South Scotland

River Tweed flood warning station theft 'dangerous'

River Tweed near Glenbreck
Image caption Sepa relies on the gauging stations on the River Tweed to deliver vital information about flood risk

The theft of a solar panel used to charge a flood gauging station on the River Tweed has been branded "dangerous and utterly selfish".

The panel was stolen from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) site in Glenbreck just a few weeks after the area was on flood alert.

A spokesman said it had not put the station out of operation.

However, he warned such action could mean that vital warning information was not received in time.

The agency is appealing to dog walkers, river bailiffs or anyone else who may be out and about near rivers in the Scottish Borders to keep an eye out for any future suspicious activity.

Nigel Goody, Sepa's hydrometry manager, said: "This may have been seen by the thieves as a quick way to make a couple of pounds, but for the local community this was a dangerous and utterly selfish act.

"Unfortunately we are seeing an increase in this kind of thing happening across the country and we need help to stop it.

"Stealing these pieces of equipment could have an impact on our ability to provide communities with essential flood warning services, and we encourage anyone seeing suspicious activity at any of our gauging stations in the area to report it to the police."

Image caption Sepa said thefts at its monitoring sites around the country were on the increase

A Sepa hydrologist realised the panel was missing when he went to the monitoring station to find out why the batteries were not recharging.

Analysis of remotely accessible information showed that the solar panel was stolen some time between 05:30 on 24 July and 05:00 the following day.

Mr Goody said: "The data gathered by this equipment is vitally important for monitoring flood risk and we need our sites to be operational all year round.

"Our staff work quickly to ensure that any problems are quickly highlighted and resolved, but if this had happened in the middle of a flood event there is a risk we couldn't have got to the site early enough and that would mean that information didn't get to us on time."

A police spokesman said it was fortunate the theft had not had a serious impact on the operations of the Glenbreck station.

"However, the stolen solar panel is a vital component in the flood gauging process and we are working closely with Sepa as we investigate this matter," he added.

"Anyone who remembers seeing anything suspicious in the area last Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning is asked to contact police immediately."

Glenbreck is one of 450 gauges that Sepa, Scotland's flood warning and informing authority, operate across the country.

It said every single one was a "vital link" in its foodline service.

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