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Tuesday, 27 February, 2001, 08:22 GMT
Criticism floods in over rivers
Dead fish
The consequences of one river pollution incident
by BBC NI environment correspondent Mike McKimm

Northern Ireland's Department of Environment has been accused of being extraordinarily slow, fragmented and lacking cohesion when dealing with river pollution.

The criticism comes from the public accounts committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly, which has been reviewing the department's performance in safeguarding the quality of rivers in the province.

Ironically it is another government agency, the DoE Water Service, who are the biggest single source of pollution.

The report also rounds on what it calls a lethargic response when action was needed.

Scathing

It claims the DoE often failed to charge industry for licences to permit specific discharges and then failed to monitor what they were actually putting into the rivers.

The committee was also scathing about the lack of action when a pollution incident was recognised.

It quotes one case when an oil leak was spotted in a river but no-one was able to track it down for more than eight weeks, despite the fact that the oil continued to leak into the river during the entire time.

While the report also highlights the fact that Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where rivers are not protected by an independent protection body, it does recognise that the department's resources for river protection have now been substantially improved, along with a dramatic increase in the length of rivers now being monitored.

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10 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
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25 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
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