Sixmilewater polluters still not found

28 August 2008
THE Northern Ireland Environment Agency has admitted its investigation into June’s fish kill on the Ballymartin and Sixmilewater Rivers in County Antrim has failed to find who caused the pollution.
This story which is taken from the Antrim Times newspaper's website, is all an too familiar tale for the Moyola Angling Association.

During a public meeting organised by Antrim and District Angling Association, ltwo weeks ago, the NIEA’s Acting Chief Executive Dr Roy Ramsey admitted that nobody had yet been brought to justice for the chemical spill.

“We have been unable to find the location of the pollution and have been unable to establish who was responsible for it,” Dr Ramsey said.

He added: “Someone out there knows who did this; we need a whistleblower to come forward.”
NIEA staff have narrowed down the possible point of entry to two pipes coming from the direction of Mallusk Industrial Estate. They are carrying out pollution risk assessments on business premises on the estate in an effort to trace the leak.

More than 25,000 trout and around 10,000 coarse fish were killed in the incident on June 18.
Dr Ramsay said he was as anxious as the local community to establish what happened.
“NIEA is frustrated that to date we have not been able to identify who was responsible for releasing the pollutant into the river which caused this fish kill,” he said.

He added: “While samples have been collected and analysed and a vast range of substances have been identified, it is still not clear what actually caused this pollution incident.

“This incident has caused great distress to the local community including anglers using the river.”
Over 200 people attended the meeting, with tensions high among many anglers and local residents who claim the penalties aren’t strong enough to deter persisent polluters.

“All these persistant offenders seem to get is a warning letter; well boo hoo, as if that’s going to stop them,” Steven Riley, Templepatrick Action Community Association said.

The department’s Emergency Pollution Officer Mark Livingstone said that companies with premises along the Sixmilewater were being assessed for their potential pollution risk.

He said risk assessments were being conducted on any business premises considered to pose a high or medium risk as part of a series of measures introduced after the incident in June.
“We have identified 10 high risk businesses and we are working with them to identify their problems,” Mr Livingstone said.

He added that extensive chemical sampling of the river has also been carried out by the agency during the investigation into the incident and there has been a biological survey to help identify where the pollutant actually entered the waterway.

Following June’s pollution incident, a bio-survey was carried out which reported that 25,000 game fish and 10,000 coarse had been killed, all invertebrates in the river had died; insects and crustaceans died in droves, with only worms and snails surviving.

The survey reported thatthe pollution was possibly caused by an insecticide.
The meeting was also told that the agency has launched a comprehensive drain survey and mapping exercise which will cover all business premises and Northern Ireland Water assets within the Mallusk Industrial Estate.

However, the officials’ words were not enough to quell the anger felt by local resident Alison Millar, whose home backs onto the Ballymartin River.
“We have lived their for the last 32 years and ladies and gentlemen I have seen the river in many, many different states,” Mrs Millar said.

She added: “It has been brown, it has been red, it has been white and green and it has had foam floating on it several feet high but it has always recovered.
“My message is simple: if we do not have effective management to protect our rivers and waterways, what are we going to have left to leave to our children.”
Local angler Gary Gregg backed calls for stiffer penalties for those polluting the local rivers.
“It is a criminal act and it therefore it should be treated as a criminal offence,” he said.
He added: “It’s about time the chief eexcutives of the companies that are responsible are brought to book, with severe penalties.”
Anyone with information on the June 18 Six Mile Water pollution incident or any other incident in Northern Ireland is urged to contact NIEA Water Operations Team on 028 9262 3238 or the Water Pollution Hotline on 0800 807060.