14/08/2008

Fish Kills Targeted

There was a large turnout last night as concerned fishermen and locals met to discuss repeated fish kills into one of the main tributaries to Lough Neagh.

As reported on 4ni in June, a second serious fish kill in a matter of days occurred then on the Ballymartin River thanks to pollution being blamed on the nearby industrial estate at Mallusk.

At the time, Colin Dawson from the National Trust said: "Any fish in the water will be dead and any food and plant life will also be dead."

He said it was the second fish kill in the Lough Neagh area in two days, with the previous incident occurring at the Glenavy River.

More than 150 people attended the crisis meeting in Antrim on Wednesday night to be told that both major fish kills have been blamed on pollution coming from the Co Antrim industrial estate outside Belfast.

The meeting heard that tens of thousands of fish died in the incidents and legal proceedings have now been issued over one of them.

Those at the meeting included people living along the river, fishermen and government officials. It was organised by Antrim and District Angling Association.

Both of the tributaries enter the Six Mile Water River, which runs 25 miles before it empties out into Lough Neagh at Antrim, (pictured).

It has also emerged today that companies with premises along the Six Mile Water are being assessed for their potential pollution risk by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA).

Senior NIEA officials said risk assessments are being conducted on any business premises considered to pose a high or medium risk as part of a series of measures introduced after the extensive June 18 fish kill on the river.
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Extensive chemical sampling of the river has also been carried out by the Agency during the investigation into the incident and there has been a biological survey to help identify where the pollutant actually entered the waterway.

While no polluter has as yet been identified, the survey has narrowed down the possible point of entry to two pipes which both come from the direction of the Mallusk Industrial Estate.

Over 25,000 trout and around 10,000 coarse fish were killed during the pollution incident which also impacted on invertebrates such as chironomid midges and shrimps.

Acting NIEA Chief Executive Dr Roy Ramsay, who attended last night's public meeting organised by the Antrim and District Angling Association, said his Agency and the Department of the Environment were as anxious as the local community to establish what had happened and to address the problem of pollution: "NIEA is frustrated that to date we have not been able to identify who was responsible for releasing the pollutant into the river which caused this fish kill.

"While samples have been collected and analysed and a vast range of substances have been identified, it is still not clear what actually caused this pollution incident.

"This incident has caused great distress to the local community including anglers using the river. However, someone knows who was responsible.

"I would therefore urge anyone, whether they are at tonight’s meeting or not, to come forward with any information they might have which can help the agency to identify the offender. This can be done by contacting the NIEA Water Operations Team or the Water Pollution Hotline."

See: Other NI News In Brief

(BMcC/KMcA)

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