The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) is currently investigating a major fish kill on the Carrig River, Newcastle, following a significant pollution incident. There has been a wide reaction from the political establishment expressing deep concern about the fish kill.
A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) said: “NIEA staff immediately went to the scene and, assisted by DAERA Inland Fisheries staff, conducted a detailed investigation. The source was traced to premises where it was discovered that a chemical had escaped into the river causing significant pollution.
“Statutory water samples were collected and evidence gathered with a view to an enforcement action. To date the number of dead fish is in excess of 1,600.
“All relevant authorities have been notified, including local council environmental health as Dundrum Bay is a significant shellfish production area. The investigation is ongoing including measures to clean up the spilled material.”
Rivers Minister Chris Hazzard has expressed his concern over the recent pollution incident. The Minister has requested an immediate report on the incident and will be meeting with NI Water and departmental officials early next week, as soon as he returns from China.
Minister Hazzard said: “Clearly this incident has had a significant impact on local fish stocks and I have asked for a meeting with NI Water early next week to get a detailed update on how this occurred and what steps have been taken since.
“I am concerned about the scale of this incident and I will be taking whatever action is necessary to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
South Down MLA Colin McGrath (SDLP) has expressed his concern following the mass fish kill near Newcastle Co Down today. Over 1600 fish were killed after chemicals leaked into the Annsborough River.
He said: “I really do feel for the people who have invested a lot of time, effort and expense into maintaining the fish stocks in the river. The damage that has been done to the local environment today is absolutely shocking and I’m sure we will eventually learn that it was completely preventable.
“These incidents are happening far too regularly across the north and often they are down to sheer carelessness or a lack of awareness on the part of those responsible.
“It is imperative that Minister McIlveen takes proactive action to ensure that those using chemicals around waterways are aware of the risk they pose to our natural environment.”
SDLP South Down MP Margaret Ritchie has called for an immediate investigation into problems at a waste water treatment works after discharge led to a significant fish kill.
She said: “I was dismayed to learn last night about the large scale of the fish kill on the Carrigs River near Murlough Bay and Newcastle at the weekend. I have learned that this fish kill was a result of a chemical leak from the Waste Water Treatment Works at Annesborough – located some 4 miles away.
“Furthermore, the representative from NI Water has just asserted that problems with pipework have emerged at this Waste Water Treatment Works in Annesborough – there is no reference to the scale of those problems.
“What is patently clear is that NI Water needs to immediately carry out a proper and adequate investigation into the nature of the problems with the pipework at the Waste Water Treatment Works; identify funding and carry out immediate works to replace or repair the problems which caused the chemical leak into our important river drainage system. This system is important to our tourist and recreation industry in the lower reaches of the Mournes as the Carrigs River flows into Dundrum Bay which is an important resource for mussel aquaculture farming.
“Working with the local community to ensure that the people of Annesborough, Castlewellan, Dundrum and Newcastle have an adequate and functional Waste Water Treatment Works, NI Water must spell out what it intends to do to improve this system, but also ensure the publication of the timely scientific report on the impact of the Dundrum Waste Water Treatment Works on Murlough. The report was due this month, but it now seems to have been delayed. Whilst the report is highly scientific, it is important that it is published without delay providing a road map which would indicate what improvements are required at the Waste Water Treatment Works in Dundrum as well. This part of South Down has a delicate environmental ecological base with an important wildlife habitat which must be protected.
“I note that NI Water is prepared to work with other agencies to ensure that the Carrigs River is re-stocked with fish – this is an important step in that it demonstrates a willingness to work with the local community.”
And Mourne’s Sinn Féin Councillor Willie Clarke speaking following NI Water, admission that a chemical spill from a waste treatment works caused the death of over 1600 fish in the Carrig river which flows through the village of Maghera, said: “It’s important that a full investigation is carried out to establish how a chemical spill occurred from the Annsborough waste treatment works.
“Sinn Féin is committed to the prevention of pollution of Ireland’s water systems and rivers, I will be writing to both NI Water and the Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard to explain how such an incident occurred and seeking assurances this will not be repeated in the future.
“Anyone who is found to be in breach of operational standards and environmental regulation must be investigated and prosecuted, this contamination is running from our rivers onto our beaches, endangering coastal wildlife and jeopardising aquaculture business, in the area. NI Water need to be held to account and made restock the river to regenerate and return it to its state prior to the incident.”
Cllr Clarke added: “This chemical discharge was probably an accident but it must not be repeated again, this incident is as serious pollution incident as you could get thousands of fish destroyed in an area of special scientific interest, and an AONB. NI water must provide answers and provide assurances that lessons will be learned.”