Fears over river cyanide effects
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Environmental groups have said they are worried about the long-term effects a cyanide leak into the River Trent in Staffordshire will have on wildlife. ...
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Hunt is on for source of cyanide that poisoned River Trent Times Online
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From The Times October 8, 2009
Hunt is on for source of cyanide that poisoned River Trent
Valerie Elliott, Countryside Editor Recommend? Thousands of fish have been killed after 30 miles of the River Trent were polluted by cyanide and sewage. Industrial premises in Stoke-on-Trent are being investigated.
There is no risk to the public from contaminated drinking water because supplies are not taken from the river or its main tributaries. People are advised, however, to keep away as a precaution.
The Environment Agency has made clear that it intends to prosecute those responsible for the pollution, which could cause lasting damage to the eco-system. There are also fears that the contaminated water will leach into adjacent farmland.
Agency officials are checking local companies that have permits allowing the limited release of substances such as cyanide. It is used in metal-plating, agriculture and mineral extraction and by pharmaceutical companies.
Anglers said that they would sue for compensation in the civil courts for disruption to fishing rights. Cyanide levels had fallen last night. The agency has been pumping oxygen into the river since Monday night.
The Severn Trent water company reported problems at its Strongford sewage treatment works in Stoke on Sunday night, when partially treated waste began to enter the river. The cyanide contamination was confirmed on Tuesday evening after analysis of water samples. Experts realised that it was the presence of cyanide, a colourless, soluble toxin, that had disrupted the sewage treatment by destroying the organisms used to treat waste.
The toll on fish species and other wildlife along the river between Stoke and Yoxall is not known. Fisheries officials are unable to conduct an audit because of health concerns.
From bridges and the river banks, however, officials have observed thousands of dead fish, among them species such as stickleback, barbel, chub, perch, dace, pike and brown trout.Thousands more may be on the river bed. There are concerns for the effects on birds, such as kingfisher, which feed on these fish species, and for otters, which have made a comeback along the Trent. Seagulls were seen feeding on the fish carcasses yesterday, but conservationists said that these birds were unlikely to be killed by secondary poisoning.
David Lowe, the agency’s environment manager in Staffordshire, said that levels of cyanide in the water were low — only one part per million — but this was enough to affect aquatic species. The Severn Trent water company said that it was not linked to the release of the pollutant.
The Environment Agency has the power to prosecute under the Water Resources Act, which makes it an offence to allow poisonous, noxious or polluting matter to enter rivers. The biggest fine under the law was imposed five years ago, when Sevalco, a chemical company in Avonmouth, paid £240,000 for deliberately discharging cyanide into the Severn Estuary.
• Clean-up operation Contamination with cyanide, which cannot be detected in water by the naked eye, was identified by laboratory tests on the Trent only on Tuesday evening. By then, some 200 million litres (44 million gallons) of toxic fluid had entered the eco-system The method used to cleanse the water is to introduce oxygen into it to break up the solid matter. This is achieved by use of aerators or oxyjets — a system of pumps on a trailer — which take in river water and inject it with hydrogen peroxide before the water is then sprayed back into the river Two aerators, each manned by a team of three or four agency staff, are being operated around the clock