Cyanide scare in River Trent

October 15, 2009 at 10:58 am

Fishermen on the River Trent in Staffordshire were first to notice a potential catastrophe for the river environment on Mon 5th Oct. They saw fish gasping “like canaries in a mine” and alerted the Environment Agency, which tested the water and found cyanide levels high enough to poison marine life.

The river is home to various types of fish, including salmon, trout, roach and perch, as well as other wildlife such as otters and kingfishers.

The cyanide was found to have entered the river at a water treatment plant at Strongford after being discharged into the public sewer system. The situation was exacerbated by the cyanide killing off the bacteria used to treat raw sewage, meaning that unprocessed effluent also entered the river.

Environment Agency staff have been working round the clock to control the damage and an investigation is now under way to discover who is responsible for releasing the deadly chemical. An Environment Agency spokesperson has said that they suspect a factory associated with metal production to be responsible, whilst Mark Owen of the Angling Trust went a step further and said that the blame was likely to lie with a steel polishing works which is licensed to handle cyanide. It is hoped that sufficient evidence will be unearthed to allow a successful prosecution.

Thousands of fish have died and, although the river is not used for drinking water, farmers, dog walkers and boaters were warned to keep away from the 30 mile stretch affected. The RSPCA has asked members of the public to contact them if they see any animals in distress as a result of the pollution.

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