Local anglers have raised concerns with Environment Minister Mark H Durkan about the investigation into a major fish kill on the Ballymartin Water last month.
Mr Durkan met with anglers and politicians at the site of the fish kill on Thursday afternoon (September 17) to discuss their concerns about the investigation, and ongoing pollution incidents on the river - a tributary of the Sixmilewater which runs through Mallusk.
More than 1,500 fish, mostly trout and dollaghan, died when a pollutant was washed into the Ballymartin Water on August 24. It was the latest is a series of pollution incidents on the waterway.
Officials from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency carried out an investigation in a bid to trace the source of the pollution, but have so far been unable to link it to any one site.
“NIEA carried out a detailed investigation, in conjunction with the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure Inland Fisheries,” a DOE spokesman said. “This included collecting a number of samples for analysis, and this analysis found trace levels of one chemical potentially harmful to fish. However this is a material with a wide range of uses, and the trace levels found were not sufficient either to link it conclusively to the fish kill or to trace it to any one site.
“It remains the case, however, that this fish kill was most probably caused by an unidentified and short-lived polluting discharge, originating in the Mallusk or Glengormley area.”
Among those who met with the Minister at Patterson’s Spade Mill on Thursday were South Antrim MLAs Trevor Clarke and Paul Girvan. Also present were Cllr Noreen McClelland and representatives of Antrim and District Angling Association and the Six Mile Water Trust.
The meeting gave local anglers and politicians the opportunity to raise concerns about the way the latest fish kill, and previous incidents on the waterway, had been handled by NIEA.
Maurice Parkinson, chairman of Antrim and District Angling Association, claimed that there had been “alarming shortcomings” in the investigation into the fish kill, particularly in terms of “a lack of protocols and procedures” for dealing with major pollution incidents. He also claimed that there had been “a lack of notification and warnings to river users about the potential for harm to human and animal life”, and no communication from the DOE with the various groups since the date of the incident.
“We informed the Minister that this situation was not good enough and reminded him that when the Association and the Trust met with him earlier in the year he was told that this type of incident was very likely to happen,” Mr Parkinson said.
The anglers and politicians stressed that the fish kill had come at a time when there was a lot of positivity about angling in South Antrim, in terms of tourism and potential for job creation.
“The Minister assured us that he would take into account what was said and that he and his special advisor would be taking immediate action, including the possibility of additional efforts and resources to address the problems emanating form the Mallusk area,” Mr Parkinson added.
Speaking after Thursday’s meeting, Mr Durkan said: “I listened to the concerns raised and I gave my commitment to explore ways of improving communication between the relevant government departments. I am also keen to build on the existing constructive working relationships between the anglers and my department, with a focus on improving mutual communication.
“Finally, I assured the anglers that I and my officials would be seeking to build on the significant work by NIEA on pollution prevention throughout the Six Mile Water catchment, focussing especially on the area around Mallusk Industrial Estate. I accepted that this would have to be done against a background of diminishing resources, but said that I was committed to trying to find the necessary resources to allow this vital work to be carried out.”