'Lacklustre response' to pollution in the River Nene

Rubbish dumped in the River Nene at Stanground.

Rubbish dumped in the River Nene at Stanground. - Credit: Supplied by Cllr Chris Harper

A councillor has criticised the Environment Agency, describing its response to reports of water pollution in the River Nene as “lacklustre at best”.

Residents in Stanground first reported the waste in the River Nene on Saturday (March 7) - and a rainbow sheen of contaminated water has been spotted in Whittlesey.

Tin of paint dumped in the River Nene at South Stanground

A rainbow sheen of oil surrounds a tin of paint dumped in the River Nene at South Stanground. - Credit: Supplied by Cllr Chris Harper

Roy Bridson, a volunteer bailiff with the Angling Trust, said: “It is absolutely disgusting how anyone could do such a thing.

“We have two swans who have become much-loved characters in Whittlesey. When I saw them wading through the oily water I called the RSPCA and they’ve been keeping an eye on them.

“Diesel is particularly poisonous for swans. If the oil impregnates their feathers and they ingest it while preening, the birds will be poisoned from the inside. It also burns their skin.”


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He added: “There’s the other birds, wildlife and nature it may affect as well.”

Swans in Whittlesey

The RSPCA is looking out for two swans who were spotted wading through the oily water in Whittlesey. - Credit: Roy Bridson


Oil and chemicals on the surface of the river

Oil and chemicals on the surface of the river - Credit: Supplied by Cllr Chris Harper

Cllr Chris Harper, who presents Stanground South for Peterborough City Council, is particularly disappointed with the Environment Agency’s reaction to the incident.

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He said: “Their response has been lacklustre at best.

"I, and a number of residents, attempted to report the incident through the Environment Agency’s pollution hotline on Saturday morning – but we couldn’t get through.

“I resorted to tweeting the Environment Agency and heard on Saturday night that someone was going there on Sunday morning.

“It was 24 hours after we attempted to first report the incident, which I wasn’t too happy about. But then the Environment Agency told me everything had been cleared and not to worry about the remaining residue – and yet the rubbish is still there.

"I wanted to warn residents as many walk their dogs along the river, and now I’m really annoyed to hear about the swans. The Environment Agency’s response throughout has been pathetic and I will be sending an official complaint.”

A gas cannister was among the dumped items

A gas cannister is among the dumped items. - Credit: Supplied by Cllr Chris Harper

Oil barrels dumped in River Nene

Oil barrels dumped in River Nene. - Credit: Supplied by Cllr Chris Harper

Cllr Chris Harper - Facebook

Cllr Chris Harper, a member of Peterborough City Council. - Credit: Cllr Chris Harper

Cllr Harper added a boat owner is going to help him clear the waste on Saturday.

An Environment Agency spokesperson said the oil containers and other debris has been cleared by the internal drainage board which maintains the stretch of water.

If members of the public continue to see items which haven't been cleared they are asked to report it to the Environment Agency pollution hotline again on 0800 807060, stating the location.

The spokesperson said: “Whilst some evidence of pollution remains, the risk to the environment is low and it will break down within days.

“If people see waste crime being carried out we urge them to report it anonymously to CrimeStoppers on 0800 555 111."

The Environment Agency also acknowledged there had been unusually high call volumes to the incident hotline and has apologised if anyone had experienced a long wait.

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