Following a major pollution incident causing a catastrophic fish kill in the Ballinderry River in Co. Tyrone, the head of the local Rivers Trust has called on farmers to urgently check their equipment to prevent further incidents.

Mark Horton, chief executive of Ballinderry Rivers Trust, a conservation charity that works to protect and improve the river, said:

“To avoid any further slurry incidents on this river, or any river, the Ballinderry Rivers Trust is directly appealing to all farmers to urgently check there is sufficient capacity in their slurry stores and that all above ground slurry tank valves are properly maintained and secure.”

At the end of last month, it was reported that a 400,000-gallon slurry spill on the Clagagn River, a tributary of the Ballinderry River, killed thousands of brown trout, Dollaghan trout, salmon, gudgeon and sticklebacks.

The Ballinderry River is home to one of Northern Ireland’s last remaining populations of the globally endangered freshwater pearl mussel, which can live for over 100 years and relies on trout as part of its life cycle.

The spill impacted 29km (18 miles) of the river, right to where it joins Lough Neagh.

It is not yet clear how the slurry spill happened, and there is an ongoing investigation by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs’ Water Quality Inspectors and Inland Fisheries Officers.

“This slurry spill is a huge setback to the decades of work that both Ballinderry Rivers Trust and local angling clubs have been doing to improve the Ballinderry’s rivers for wildlife and the local community,” Horton added.

“This is a catastrophic pollution incident that happened when water levels were low, so there has been little dilution of the slurry, and it is slow-moving through the river system.

“Unfortunately, that means generations of fish have been wiped out, and it will take many years for the river to recover.”