Page last updated at 05:39 GMT, Wednesday, 30 July 2008 06:39 UK

River polluted 76 times in decade

dead fish

A river in County Antrim has been polluted 76 times in the last 10 years, but there have only been 11 prosecutions.

The figures on the Glenavy River have been released to SDLP Assembly member Thomas Burns.

He said the NI Environment Agency must punish polluters more heavily.

"Three of the incidents were of the highest severity, yet the highest fine imposed by the courts was only a few thousand pounds," Mr Burns said.

"Similarly, I am somewhat doubtful that 'warning letters' represent effective punishment against polluters or act as any form of deterrent against repeat offenders.

"The new regime at the NIEA needs to get a grip of the situation and pursue offenders with more vigour.

"While I respect the independence of the judiciary, offenders need to be hit hard with fines and other sanctions. If the current laws do not allow for this then the law must be changed."

The figures show that the Water Service/NI Water caused 15 of the pollution incidents.

Twenty-one were agricultural, 26 were caused by other industrial mishaps, 12 were from a domestic source and two incidents were classified as "other".

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