The Canal & River Trust has joined forces with the Environment Agency in a battle to save thousands of fish from dying in a stretch of the borough's canal network.
A pollution incident at Plank Lane in Leigh has resulted in the death of around 200 small fish from asphyxiation and many thousands more distressed fish are currently gasping for breath as oxygen levels have been reduced to only 1 per cent of normal levels.
A member of the public reported the incident yesterday (Thursday) and teams from the Trust and EA immediately attended the site. A chemical Sodium Carbonate Peroxyhydrate is being added to the water to raise oxygen levels to safeguard the remaining fish and other aquatic life. The cause of the pollution is being investigated.
The Canal & River Trust, which cares for 2,000 miles of canals and rivers, will be working closely with EA fisheries staff to monitor the water quality and condition of the fish over the next few days.
They do not believe there is a risk to humans or animals, but as a precaution, the Environment Agency are asking people to stay out of the canal and keep pets away from the water until the investigation is complete.
Paul Breslin, fisheries officer with the Canal & River Trust, said: “If anyone has any information that might lead us to identify the cause of this damaging pollution incident, we would like to hear from them. Thanks to the fast action of the person who reported the incident to the Environment Agency and our quick-thinking emergency staff, we are hoping to avoid a major disaster for local wildlife.
“It is a pity that potentially thoughtless actions have resulted in our charity having to spend much-needed cash in this way but protecting our waterway wildlife is one of our top priorities. Canals which provide the best habitats for wildlife are also great places for humans to relax and enjoy the big outdoors too.
“We know from research that people feel happier and healthier by water, so our aim is to continue to protect these special blue spaces for the benefit of everyone.”
An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “Our officers went out on site yesterday after receiving reports of fish in distress along a stretch of the Leeds and Liverpool canal near Leigh. It was a serious event, with fish observed in distress along with a number of fatalities.
“Thanks to the fast-acting member of the public who reported the incident to us, our fisheries officers were able to deploy hydrogen peroxide to increase the oxygen levels in the canal.
“An investigation to determine the cause is now underway. Our teams, alongside our partners at the Canal & River Trust, are continuing to monitor the situation and take appropriate action. Protecting people and the environment is our number one priority and we take any issues of pollution very seriously. We always encourage members of the public who do spot any environmental incidents in their local area to report it to us on 0800 80 70 60. This enables us to respond quickly and reduce any impacts incidents may have.”
For more information about volunteering or donating to the Canal & River Trust, please visit the website www.canalrivertust.org.uk.