OFFICIALS have said it will take several years for local riverways to recover from last week’s devastating slurry pollution incident near Dromore.
The Loughs Agency said it is not yet in a position to put a figure on how many fish have been killed, however it’s expected the number will be in the thousands, potentially in the tens of thousands.
The slurry spill into the Owenreagh River at a farm near Dromore last Wednesday (May 23) is now the subject of a criminal investigation by the Loughs Agency.
The investigation itself is expected to last several months, with the potential for a civil case to follow.
It’s estimated that in the region of 100,000 gallons of slurry poured into the Owenreagh River after the collapse of a wall at a relatively new slurry pit.
Several miles of the Owenreagh and Drumragh rivers have been completely wiped out, but fishery inspector Seamus Cullinan said there has been some positive news this week after it transpired the damage was not as widespread along the river as first thought.
“Because we were getting dead fish down at the bottom of the Drumragh River, which is 16 miles from the source, we just assumed it was a complete wipe-out,” he said.
But following assessments on Friday, the wipe-out zone was confirmed as being contained to just a few miles from the source.
“It is only in the bottom end of the Drumragh where it killed again,” said Mr Cullinan. “There is a big area in between that is unscathed, where fish are still alive.
“It is still a massive fish kill, but it is not as bad as we first thought.”
Despite the hot weather last Wednesday, the Loughs Agency said rainfall from the previous week kept levels at a height that probably saved a significant portion of the river.
It’s eight years since the agency investigated a local fish kill on such a scale.
“We had a similar fish kill in around 2010, which ironically was in the same area, with part of the same river affected,” said Seamus Cullinan.
“It has come back pretty well, but something like this just knocks it back and takes the river a long time to recover.
“While trout numbers will be replaced – they do come in from other catchments – any juvenile salmon lost – they’re gone forever,” he said.