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Thursday, March 5, 1998 Published at 19:38 GMT



UK

Mystery pollutant kills three million fish
image: [ It is thought contaminants entered the river near the village and spread downriver to the trout farm. ]
It is thought contaminants entered the river near the village and spread downriver to the trout farm.

The Environment Agency says it may have traced the source of pollution which resulted in one of Britain's worst ever incidents of river poisoning and killed more than three million fish.

Scientists from the Agency say they are carrying out door-to-door enquiries at farms and businesses around the village of Little Bedwyn, Wiltshire, which is the furthest point upstream where dead fish have been found.

It is thought contaminants entered the river near the village and spread downriver to the Berkshire Trout Farm, near Hungerford, wiping out its entire stock of more than 150 tonnes of trout on Wednesday.

Tests on the dead fish and the water in the canal and adjoining River Dun, which was also affected, have so far failed to identify the pollutant responsible.

The farm's owner, Michael Stevenson, who is helping to remove the fish, said: "It is a terrible job. We have to drain the entire farm, clear the fish out and take them away to be disposed of in an environmentally sensitive way.

"It is an awful sight to see all these dead fish just piled up. It breaks your heart. It will take a couple of years before the farm is back to where it was."

Other wildlife safe

An unknown number of coarse fish, including roach, bream, gudgeon and perch, have also died in the canal and the Dun.

But other wildlife, such as ducks, rats and invertebrates appear to be unaffected, and the pollution seems to have been diluted before reaching the River Kennet further downstream.

The dead fish are classified as special waste and are being taken to specialist landfill sites across the south-east, where they can be buried without causing a health risk to the surrounding environment.

The Environment Agency's area manager Stu Darby said: "This is one of the largest incidents of its type in the region to date. Fisheries, biologists and pollution experts are doing everything they can to get to the bottom of this."








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