UPDATE: Ammonia pollution being blamed for thousands of fish deaths in River Witham over the weekend

Thousands of fish are thought to have died from the ammonia pollution incident in the River Witham, says Lincolnshire Rivers Trust. EMN-180603-104616001
Thousands of fish are thought to have died from the ammonia pollution incident in the River Witham, says Lincolnshire Rivers Trust. EMN-180603-104616001

Environment Agency investigators say they have found high levels of ammonia in the River Witham where thousands of fish have been reported dead from a pollution incident.

The dead fish were reported in the river between Bardney and Tattershall Bridge on Saturday and Sunday. A dog walker walking near the River Witham between Bardney and Kirkstead spotted floating fish in the water.

An agency spokesman told the Standard this afternoon (Monday): “We believe this to be the cause of the fish deaths.

“Our officers are continuing with their efforts to track and stop the pollution, and protect the local environment.

“We have lab scientists working through the night to complete a full analysis of the water.”

Hundreds of fish were seen struggling to breathe and dying on the stretch of water.

A spokesperson for the Agency had said earlier today (Monday): “Officers used a 4x4 to reach the site in difficult weather conditions to begin our investigations and a search for the source.

“A large number of fish have been found dead at Kirkstead Bridge near Woodhall Spa.

“We have teams of environmental experts on site, working hard to identify the cause. Our focus is on understanding the reason behind the deaths and ensuring it’s stopped. At this stage, we believe the deaths are the result of pollution, not cold weather or salt.”

Agency officers are determined that if negligence is found to blame for the pollution they will pursue the case and prosecute.

Once clear, the river can be restocked with fish, but this will take time to restore wildlife to how it was before.

Members of the public can report environmental incidents to the Environment Agency on 0800 80 70 60.

Lincolnshire Rivers Trust is shocked by the thousands of dead fish found.

A statement from the charity said the precise numbers have yet to be confirmed but, thousands are thought to have died, ranging from small fry to large adult fish. The numerous boat moorings spaced along the Lower Witham offer vital refuge to many thousands of fish at this time of year.

Lauren Vickers CEO of Lincolnshire Rivers Trust said: “As the lead for the Witham Catchment Partnership, we are utterly devastated by this massive loss of fish in the Witham. If any other animal was lost at this scale there would be a national outcry.”

The Lincolnshire Rivers Trust was set up to protect, enhance and restore the rivers and waterways of Lincolnshire for wildlife and people, and works across the county to improve Lincolnshire rivers.