Wildlife wiped out by train wreck oil spill

A stream has been seriously polluted and the wildlife living in it wiped out after it became contaminated with oil that had spilt from a train wreck.

The oil seeped from a freight train carrying kerosene and diesel, which derailed outside Stewarton Rail Station, in Ayrshire, Scotland, shortly before 6.30am on January 27, and burst into flames.

Firefighters from Strathclyde Fire and Rescue put out the blaze shortly after midday and attempted to contain the oil spill.

Environmental consultants put dams in place in the nearby Garrier Burn and tankers were used to remove oil and oily water from the scene.

But a large amount of oil had already leaked into the burn and into the River Irvine, which carried the oil through the town of Irvine and into its harbour.

Officers from the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) have been assessing the site since the incident.

David Wilbrahaim from SEPA said: “The assessment that followed when access was granted showed that a considerable amount of oil has been spilled, soaking into the ground around the railway tracks and leaking into surface water drains.”

Preliminary reports from SEPA’s ecologists said all fish and invertebrates in the burn had been killed by the spill, and it is likely other wildlife was affected. Dead invertebrates were also found in the River Irvine.

About fifty birds, most of which were swans, also had to be rescued from Irvine Harbour by the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) after they became coated in oil believed to be from the derailed train.

The birds were taken to the Wildlife Rescue Centre in Fife, which has a specialist cleaning facility for oiled birds.

Centre manager Colin Seddon said: “We will not be able to release them back into the water at Irvine Harbour until all the oil has been cleaned up, so they could stay in our care for a while yet.”

Kate Martin

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