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Invisible killer devastates River Kennet

Update 2 – Please click here for news of the public health “all clear” that has been issued for those people swimming or fishing in the Kennet.

Update 2 – Please click here for a health warning about swimming or fishing in the River Kennet.

Update 1 – Environment Agency experts have now identified the chemical that has caused enormous damage to a 15-kilometre section of the River Kennet.

“The mystery pollution is no longer a mystery,” ARK director Charlotte Hitchmough told Marlborough News Online. “It is a chemical called chloryrifos – a pesticide which is very harmful to aquatic life, particularly invertebrates.

“Sold under a variety of brand names, it looks as though it has entered the sewer network from a drain, and arrived at the Sewage Treatment Works and got from there into the river. Thames Water are now working their way up the sewer network to try to locate at what point it poured into the Kennet.”

Please see the following press release from ARK (Action for the River Kennet):

Around 15km of the world famous chalk stream the River Kennet have been devastated by an invisible pollutant this week.

Environment Agency analysis today identified the chemical pollutant as a pesticide which has entered the water course through the Sewage Treatment Works at Marlborough.

The catastrophe first came to light when ARK’s volunteer riverfly monitors were carrying out routine surveys on Monday morning. They discovered that all the freshwater shrimp,mayfly and caddis fly seemed to have been wiped out.

The incident was immediately reported to the Environment Agency.

During the course of the following 48 hours the team worked to identify the source and extent of the pollution, while the Environment Agency took samples to identify the pollutant.

River keepers along the Kennet from Marlborough, Wiltshire to Hungerford, Berkshire have reported the total death of their invertebrate populations.

At this time of year each square meter of river contains thousands of freshwater shrimp along with mayflies and other river invertebrates on which the rivers’ ecology depends.

With all of these dead, the base of the food chain has been wiped out, which will leave birds and fish with nothing to eat. So far only a few dead fish have been found, so the casual observer it’s business as usual on the river, but nothing could be further from the truth.

It’s too early to identify the exact source of the pollution, but the Environment Agency is working to find answers to where it came from.

Action for the River Kennet is the River Trust for the River Kennet and its tributaries. Their team of volunteers surveys 40 sites every month to check on the health of the river. The Kennet is one of England’s finest chalk streams and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It flows from Silbury Hill in Wiltshire, through Berkshire and joins the River Thames at Reading.

Thanks to Dogman and Jo Hutchings for posting this information in the forum.

Source: Action for the River Kennet / Marlborough News Online

Posted by: RB on 10th July 2013