Fish die after Colyton river polluted

PUBLISHED: 11:28 04 May 2020 | UPDATED: 14:50 04 May 2020

An Environment Agency officer at the pollution site. Picture: EA

An Environment Agency officer at the pollution site. Picture: EA


A large number of fish have died following a major pollution incident near Colyton over the weekend.

The frothing River Coly following contamination of the waterway Picture: Richard BenfordThe frothing River Coly following contamination of the waterway Picture: Richard Benford

A local farmer called the Environment Agency (EA) to report the loss of 100,000 litres of slurry from a storage tank.

The slurry entered the Southleigh Stream, a tributary of the River Coly and River Axe.

The farmer constructed a ditch to reduce the flow to the stream once he was made aware of the incident.

Most of the slurry reached the watercourse which was heavily discoloured when officers arrived on site on Sunday (May 3), making it difficult to assess the impact of the pollution.

An EA spokesman said: “Approximately 10km of river has been affected. The Umborne Brook joins the River Coly at Colyton which will help dilute any pollution.

“Officers have returned to carry out a fish kill assessment and consider any further remedial measures. “

“The spill occurred overnight on Friday and the EA was alerted yesterday morning.”

Ed Parr Ferris, the conservation manager at Devon Wildlife Trust, said: “This incident has occurred on a section of river, the River Coly, already classed as in poor condition by the Environment Agency due primarily to agricultural pollution.

“The EA has been focussing attention on agricultural pollution on the River Axe (of which the River Coly is a tributary) due to the failing status of this important river.

“The Axe is recognised internationally as a Special Area of Conservation for its plants, invertebrates and populations of important fish (Atlantic salmon, bullhead, brook lamprey and sea lamprey). The estuary is also a Marine Conservation Zone.

“This is especially concerning as it’s the second major pollution incident on the river in two years which emphasises the need for stronger regulation, alongside advisory support for farming businesses to manage and protect our amazing river wildlife.

“Devon Wildlife Trust is working closely with the Environment Agency and other organisations to better protect and enhance the wildlife and environment in the Axe catchment.”

Colyton district councillor Paul Arnott said: “Many fish have been killed and the incident is regarded as a significant pollution incident.”

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