Scottish slurry spill very serious, says SEPA

It is not yet known what the exact consequences of the spill of 500,000 litres of pig slurry on 29 November into Gadie Burn, a tributary of the River Urie, will be, says the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), and the exact causes are still unknown, although investigations are continuing.

SEPA were notified of the spill by a passer-by who had driven through slurry on the road, and were quickly on site to help reduce the environmental impact of the spill, using hay bales and earthwork bunds to minimise the amount of slurry entering the watercourse.

“This is obviously a very serious incident and the impact on the Gadie Burn and the River Urie will be significant,” said Stewart Mitchell of SEPA at the time of the spill. “SEPA officers responded quickly but the causes of the discharge are still under investigation. In these circumstances, if appropriate, enforcement action may be taken.”

However, by 3 December, SEPA’s Ecology Manager in Aberdeen Mike Davidson stated that it was still too early to say for definite what the impact has been. “Any damage may not be evident immediately after the incident; it can take several days to see the signs in insect life in the river,” said Davidson. “While the heavy rain at the end of the week made our investigation more difficult, it may have also helped reduce the impact of the spill.”

At the time of the incident, the flow of the River Urie was twice that of the normal summer flow. This was increased considerably by heavy rainfall on the following Sunday night, which caused the flow of the river to rise by four to six times the summer level.

“Our staff have recovered around 60 fish from the area, but it’s not possible to tell the total amount that have died,” added Davidson. “Some fish will not be visible because of the high river flows, and some will have been eaten by predators such as otters, mink and birds.”

It was reported by the BBC that as the incident has occurred at the time of year when salmon and trout are spawning, this could be a major disaster. “This spill is going to wipe out adult salmon and adult trout,” Jim Kerr of the Don Salmom Fishing Board is reported to have said.

If appropriate, says SEPA, the organisation will take enforcement action, which may include a warning letter, an enforcement notice, and a report to the procurator fiscal.

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