Investigation into suspected ‘careless actions’ of slurry pollution along district river

A Canal & River Trust worker with a rescued pike.
A Canal & River Trust worker with a rescued pike.

The lives of thousands of fish have been saved in the Grand Union Canal in the Harborough district after a suspected slurry pollution incident.

But the lives of hundreds of fish, including pike, roach and perch, could not be saved.

Water pumps in action as the Environment Agency team gets to work clearing the pollution from the river. NNL-150115-121040001

Water pumps in action as the Environment Agency team gets to work clearing the pollution from the river. NNL-150115-121040001

The Environment Agency, the county’s Canal & River Trust and Natural England have been working hard over the weekend and into the week to clear the pollution – found between Kilby Bridge and Kibworth – and workers from the Canal and River Trust have saved the lives of “many thousands of fish”.

The Environment Agency thinks the pollutant was slurry and an official investigation is underway.

The next stage in the clear-up is now underway: to dilute ammonia in the polluted water with fresh water to ensure its quality is suitable to be released downstream.

A spokesman for the Environment Agency said: “We are continuing to respond to a pollution incident in the Grand Union Canal, Leicester Line, between Kibworth’s top lock and Kilby Bridge where hundreds of fish have been killed in the watercourse.

The rescue in process on the Grand Union Canal after the suspected slurry pollution. NNL-150115-121029001

The rescue in process on the Grand Union Canal after the suspected slurry pollution. NNL-150115-121029001

“The organisations are working to contain the pollution and to prevent further impacts on wildlife, and we are carrying out investigations.

“The Canal & River Trust are moving live fish away from the affected area into unaffected areas of the canal. Thousands of fish have already been rescued.

“Water quality is being monitored and sections of the canal are being aerated to increase oxygen levels and help break down the pollution.”

Natural England is providing advice and assessing the impact of the pollution on the Kilby-Foxton canal Site of Special Scientific Interest.

The Environment Agency incident command centre. NNL-150115-121101001

The Environment Agency incident command centre. NNL-150115-121101001

An Environment Agency spokesman added: “This is a serious incident which has killed hundreds of fish and we are working hard with the Canal & River Trust and Natural England to reduce the impact on the local environment.

“Our investigation is underway to determine responsibility for the incident, at present, it appears that it could be slurry that has entered the canal from nearby land.”

Neil Owen, the acting waterway manager at the Canal & River Trust, said: “Currently the canal is closed to boaters whilst we work to disperse this pollution and reopen the canal.

“It’s really sad that we’ve had so many fish die from the careless actions of an individual which allowed slurry to enter our waterway.

“Fortunately we have managed to move many thousands of fish away from the pollution plug but we still have busy task ahead of us in trying to break down the pollution.”

Anyone who sees any impact of the pollution or any dead fish is being urged to report the matter to the Environment Agency’s incident hotline on 0800 807 060.

Anyone who has any information on the possible source of the pollution is also urged to call the hotline.

Harborough’s MP, Sir Edward Garnier, who has been kept abreast of the situation, said: “If you come across evidence of pollution or any dead fish, please report it to the Environment Agency on their incident hotline.

“And if you know anything about the source of the pollution give them a call.”

In England and Wales, the principal water pollution offences are contained in the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010: regulations 38(1) and 12(1). The offences are similar to ones that used to be set out in section 85 of the Water Resources Act 1991.

It is an offence to cause or knowingly permit a water discharge activity unless you are complying with an environmental permit or exemption.

If a person is tried and convicted in a magistrates’ court, they could be fined up to £50,000 or sentenced to up to twelve months in prison.

If they are tried and convicted in a Crown Court they could face an unlimited fine or be sentenced to up to five years in jail.

Story by Alex Blackwell.

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