EA says mine spill has not led to heavy metal contamination

The Environment Agency's (EA) first tests have shown that the River Fal in Cornwall has not suffered heavy metal contamination following a large spill of china clay waste.

“We’ve had initial samples back and they show that there’s been no discernible rise in metals levels in the water,” an EA spokesperson told edie the day after the spill. The tests checked copper, zinc and cadmium levels. Testing for ammonia and other chemicals will also take place, although the EA does not expect to find rises.

Thus far, no dead fish have been spotted. “We’re relieved, but we’re concerned about the high levels of silt and solids in the water,” says the spokesperson. “Spawning beds will be smothered and gills will be clogged.”

The exact amount of china clay waste that entered the River Fal from a breach in the Kernick Mica Dam is unknown, but the EA says it’s thousands of tonnes. The river is polluted and discoloured for 10km downstream and a yellow slick is also visible in the estuary.

The breach was caused when a blocked pipe broke following heavy rainfall. The EA has confirmed that enforcement action against the company that operates the dam is being considered.

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