Thousands of fish die in the River Nene after a chemical spill of pesticide

AROUND 4,000 fish have died and tens of thousands of fish have been struggling along the length of the River Nene this week, following a chemical spill of pesticides.

The Environment Agency has warned people to stay away from the river, and anglers have been advised to stop fishing the stretch, to give remaining fish a chance to recover.

The 5,000 litre chemical spill at Orton Southgate at the weekend worked its way along the river. The Environment Agency said 4,000 fish died in the river at Peterborough, and some of the fish found struggling along the river between Orton Mere and Wisbech were expected to die.

Full results of water samples are expected tomorrow (Wednesday).

Although the pollution is very toxic to the environment, the Agency managed water flows between Orton Mere and the Dog in a Doublet Sluice at Whittlesey to help dilute it. That lowered the risk to people in contact with the water, although they are still advised to from stay away from it as a precaution.

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Anglian Water, local downstream abstractors, the RSPB, Nene Parks Trust, river users, the local authority, internal drainage boards and the Health Protection Agency were alerted by the Agency, which has also been in talks with organisations around the Wash, to ensure the very small risk to waters beyond Wisbech was understood and managed.

A sluice close to Orton Southgate has been closed to prevent any further chemicals escaping to the river, and work is being carried out to clean up the spill.

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Environment Agency manager Norman Robinson said: “We are urging people to be cautious over the next few days even though the risk is very small. We are doing everything we can to establish the level of pollution in the Nene and to ensure it has as little effect on wildlife and people as possible.”

Anyone concerned about being in contact with the water and who has skin irritation should wash skin and hair with soap and water in the first instance. If irritation persists they are advised to seek medical advice.

If anyone has irritation in their eyes after being in contact with the water they should flush immediately with plenty of drinking water for 15 minutes and seek medical attention if irritation persists.

The dead fish were mostly roach, and those seen struggling include roach, spined loach, eels, perch and tench. The chemical spill is being investigated by police and the Environment Agency.

Any reports of fish struggling should contact the Environment Agency emergency hotline on 0800 80 70 60. Health concerns should be advised to NHS Direct on: 0845 4647

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