Page last updated at 16:38 GMT, Monday, 31 March 2008 17:38 UK

Orange River Irwell investigated

River Irwell
About 20 miles (32km) of the river is affected

An investigation is under way after a 20-mile (32km) stretch of the River Irwell ran orange in Lancashire.

The oddly coloured water in the river running south from Bacup was reported to the Environment Agency by concerned members of the public early on Monday.

Experts believe heavy rainfalls may have caused old underground mineworks to collapse, leading to a water treatment plant being swamped.

As a result, untreated water is leaking into the river, giving it its colour.

The orange substance is thought to be iron oxide and scientists are working to ensure pollution is kept to a minimum.

An Environment Agency spokesman said: "The impact of the pollution on the river and its wildlife is currently being assessed.

"Water samples and photographs of the pollution are being taken.

"There have been no reports of any fish deaths or other damage to wildlife, but an ecological survey is to be carried out in due course."

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