A major pollution alert has been sounded after more than 1,000 fish were found dead in a village stream.
The mystery deaths were discovered on Wednesday at Honeybridge Stream, a tributary of the River Adur, at Ashington.
The dead fish were found downstream of the bridge near the Monza garage in Ashington - as far as the Waste Water Treatment Works and upstream to where the stream goes under the A24 at the end of Mill Lane - in what is being described as an ‘horrific’ incident.
Among fish killed are trout, sea trout, gudgeon, dace, roach and bream. Experts from the Environment Agency are currently investigating what has happened.
Meanwhile, Peter Chase, a volunteer with the Ouse and Adur Rivers Trust, said: “This is being seen as a massive fish kill event and is devastating to the stream and every thing that lived it.” He added: It’s absolutely horrific. Rivers depend on small streams like this being kept clear and clean for fish to spawn. We regularly test water quality.
“Back in October, with funding from the Environment Agency, we had a project to put 19 and a half tons of gravel in there for the fish to spawn. It is absolutely horrific to see all of our hard work undone. It’s just heartbreaking.”
He said the cause of the pollution was not yet known “but we would like the public to be very aware of the damage that can be caused by careless or negligent disposal of waste.
“The sea trout are struggling to survive as a species and are one of the few fish that return to the place where they spawned to lay eggs and spawn. They live in the streams as juvenile fish and when about one year old migrate to the North Sea.
“It is so sad to these fish killed when they have survived the hostile environment in the North Sea, travelled back down the east coast avoiding all the drift nets and the estuary netting, battled up through small neglected partially blocked streams to spawn - only to be poisoned at the last minute.”
He said the prime time for spawning was between October and February. “We’re right in the middle of the key spawning season and these are iconic fish that we are struggling to keep in existance.”
The Environment Agency is currently investigating the incident. A spokesman said: “Initial surveys have indicated that any pollution occurred a few days ago and has since stopped, but the source remains unknown.
“Our investigations into the matter are continuing. If anyone has any information regarding the incident, we urge them to call us via our 24 hour incident hotline on 0800 807060.”