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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Pollution Probed as 2,000 Fish Die in River Pont

INVESTIGATIONS are being carried out after almost 2,000 fish were killed in a pollution incident on a stretch of river in Northumberland.

The incident – described as serious by pollution watchdog the Environment Agency – resulted in almost all the fish dying along about 11km of the River Pont between Ponteland and Matfen. It was reported a month ago by a passer-by who spotted dead fish floating in the water, although it is believed the poisoning happened a few days earlier.

Checks by the agency at its routine sampling point on the Pont near Stamfordham revealed very high levels of ammonia in the river.
Ammonia is commonly used in fertilisers and an investigation is now being carried out by the agency in a bid to discover who was responsible.

The incident, which the agency believes was accidental, killed almost 2,000 fish ranging from brown trout to stickleback, although invertebrates in the river were unaffected.

Yesterday an agency spokesman said the river would be re-stocked with fish next summer, after efforts are made to raise awareness of the pollution risks posed by careless discharges. He said: “This incident was a serious case of pollution and was reported to us on Thursday October 22, although we believe it happened earlier that week. “Water samples showed a very high level of ammonia in the river during that week, but because the incident happened a few days previously we have not yet been able to trace the source of the discharge. “We are looking at all possible sources in that area and also talking to landowners, businesses and anyone who might know something about this, to raise awareness of what careless actions can lead to.
“We are looking to re-stock the river next summer, but we must ensure we have done as much as possible to prevent similar incidents from happening again. We are very keen to hear from any members of the public, in confidence, who might know about this. “We believe, and hope, that this has probably been accidental, and someone has managed to discharge quite a large quantity of ammonia into the river.”
Anyone with information is asked to call the agency's incident hotline on 0800 807060.
In August 2006 an estimated 2,000 endangered white-clawed crayfish died after farm silage and slurry leached into the Robsheugh Burn, a tributary of the Pont, during heavy rainfall. Hundreds of fish also died.
Source: Journal Live