Science

Investigation into pollution event at Brompton Beck in Northallerton

COUNCILLORS fear thousands of fish may have died in the third “catastrophic” pollution incident on a popular beck.

They are now calling on members of the public to help by reporting any pollution they see or hear about to the Environment Agency (EA).

Officials from the EA were called out to Brompton Beck at Water End on Friday, February 4 after reports of a large number of dead fish in Brompton, near Northallerton.

Brompton Parish Council said the alert had been raised the previous day when a passer by noticed several fish up to six inches long floating dead in the water.

A spokesperson for the authority said: “Councillors discovered the full extent of the catastrophe after looking further up Water End. Hundreds if not thousands of fish lay dead in the mud and silts of the beck and further upstream towards Fullicar Lane.= A devastating sight.

“This particular stretch of the beck has in the last few years been a regular home to little egret, heron and kingfisher. We have resident moorhen, gray wagtail and ducks, and that’s just the bird life. Councilors and many members of the public worked hard on a community wildlife area to improve the variety of species in Brompton.

“We know the becks in this area fail to meet European Water Standards and we understand it is to be hopefully included in a wider catchment area study by the EA to establish longer term how the water quality can be improved. That said, it is acknowledged that such a sizeable fish death is a significant blow to our beck that was showing real signs of sustaining a strong variety of wildlife species.

“Deaths of small stock species on this scale in such a short stretch of beck is very upsetting. Some pollutant has entered the water course from an identifiable point and obliterated all the fish downstream in a short period of time. Someone somewhere is responsible whether they realize it or not.”

A report revealed whatever pollution entered the watercourse to cause the fish deaths had passed through very quickly. Water samples taken on February 4 showed no adverse pollution, while the fish showed no sign of decay, so had died very recently.

The council spokesperson added: “Local farmers in the catchment area will be visited by the EA as part of an ongoing scheme to discuss responsible farming practices such as slurry spreading and generally continue to raise awareness of responsible land management around the water course. Adjoining land owners will be asked if there have been any pollution incidents.

“The message from the EA is to encourage the immediate reporting of any pollution incidents spotted in or around the beck that could affect the watercourse or wildlife.

“This is the third beck pollution incident Brompton Town Council has dealt with in 18 months, including a bloom of sewage fungus along Water End.”

An EA spokesperson said: “Following reports of fish kills at Brompton Beck in Northallerton, our officers attended the site on two occasions to investigate. They found dead fish but no evidence of pollution in the watercourse. We have also conducted farm visits to look for potential sources of pollution from agricultural activities in the area.

“We continue to work with the local authority to investigate and would encourage anyone who sees fish in distress or water pollution to immediately report it through our 24/7 incident hotline on 0800 807060.”

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