Environmental crime officers are hoping to jog people’s memories when they hit the streets of a Hampshire town appealing for information about a serious pollution incident on New Year’s Day.
More than 250 fish and thousands of invertebrates died after a 1.5km stretch of the River Wey in Alton was polluted. Staff will be using flyers at lunchtime tomorrow (Wednesday 19 January) near NatWest Bank on the High Street in a bid for vital information.
The incident affected a stretch between Paper Mill Lane and Neatham Mill and previous surveys showed that the river was populated by thousands of fish including species such as brown trout, chub, dace and minnows. The biggest fish recovered was a 44cm long brown trout.
Since New Year’s Day Environment Agency staff have been working with local businesses, neighbourhood police, utility companies, voluntary groups and the wider community to understand what happened.
James Liney, an environment management team leader, said: “This was a serious pollution incident which devastated the ecology of an important stretch of river. Given that it impacted an area in Alton town centre I am really hoping that someone will come forward with information to help our investigation.
“Initial water sample results of the River Wey taken on New Year’s Day don’t give us a clear view of where the pollutant came from or what it is, but we are working to interpret the results.
“We have a long track record of working with businesses in Alton to help them run their businesses without causing pollution of the local environment and this work continues.”
Whatever got into the water had a devastating effect on the fish and invertebrates so Environment Agency ecology and fisheries teams have been out on the River Wey and Lasham Drain to assess the impacts of the incident.
Staff have also worked with the local neighbourhood police team to see if they have any CCTV images of the area that may help the investigation.
Mr Liney added: “We don’t yet know who the offenders are. Not everyone realises that when something is poured down a highway drain, more often than not it ends up in the local river with sometimes devastating consequences.
“I appeal to the community of Alton, if you have seen or heard anything about this incident please help us by calling the Environment Agency Pollution Hotline on 0800 80 70 60 quoting Alton fish kill.”