INVESTIGATORS probing the River Arun environmental disaster that struck a six mile stretch of river bank say their hunt for the culprit has gone ‘cold’.
It has emerged that the river will take ‘months’ to fully recover after oil was dumped in a ‘sinister’ act of fly-tipping.
A criminal investigation was launched by the Environment Agency in late June after hundreds of fish died in a suspected sewage leak on the eve of this year’s fishing season.
However, after a search of 50 to 60 premises surrounding the river, no source of pollution was found.
The agency now believes that oil was dumped into the river by a member of the public.
A spokesman told the County Times that the case is ‘cold’ and ‘no culprit will be caught’ unless a witness comes forward with information about the oil tipping.
This comes just weeks after Specialist Environment Agency fisheries and environment officers said they were ‘confident’ the source of the pollution would be identified.
Sam Elfer, of the Environment Agency, said: “For this particular case it had been dumped in the water, although it’s frustrating because we’re not going to be able to find out who the culprit is.
“It’s always difficult in these kind of incidents because oil is oil and when it comes into contact with water it’s very difficult to capture it and figure out where it’s come from.
“There are lots of premises nearby that perhaps use engine oil and machinery oil for repairing cars so a lot of them will have to dispose of it.
“We’ve gone round to check that all their paper work stacks up, and it does, so there’s no immediate or obvious link there.’’
The incident - which had been described as an ‘environmental disaster’ - struck on day one of fishing season, leaving local anglers fuming.
Charles Joyce is chairman of Southern Angling, which has a stretch of about three quarters of a mile to a mile of the River Arun off Haven Road, near Rudgwick.
He said this week: “My treasurer wants blood for this - it’s absolute devastation that water.
“I know that section of river like the back of my hand and this time of year you should be catching up to 20 in a session of fishing.
“Anything west of the A24 is as dead as a Dodo and I know some of the land owners who say they’re still finding dead fish.
“This year we were hoping for 20 to 25 member and we’re struggling for 17.
“And five boys in the club have said they want their money back.
“People have joined just recently and we’ve had to say, ‘look, this has just happened, we can’t guarantee you’re going to have a lot of fun’.
“Our club can survive financially for another two years but if it happens again, well, I think we might be kissing our club goodbye.”
Members of the public can report pollution incidents by calling the Environment Agency’s emergency hotline on 0800 80 70 60.