NI Water says it will work in co-operation with other agencies to establish the facts surrounding the discovery of dead fish in Woodburn Reservoir Catchment area.
The incident, coupled with the loss of recently planted saplings at Woodburn Forest, has sparked concern among residents, elected representatives and environmental campaigners.
However, NI Water indicated it is following a particular line of inquiry. In a statement, the agency said: “NI Water is aware of reports of dead fish in the Woodburn Reservoir catchment area near Carrickfergus, and we have notified the relevant external agency, DAERA Marine and Fisheries Division.
“We will work in co-operation with DAERA Marine and Fisheries Division to establish the facts. Fish stocks have recently been restocked at this site, and it is considered likely that the deaths are as a result of an oxygen deficiency incurred during transport to the site – this remains under review.
“NI Water is not in a position to provide reliable indicators of the number of fish affected in this incident, as their stocking and maintenance is not NI Water’s responsibility.”
East Antrim Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson has written to NI Water and Northern Ireland Environment Agency over the problems.
Mr Dickson alleged: “A number of constituents have contacted me to inform me that some newly planted trees and many fish in the reservoirs are dead. The trees had been planted to replace the trees that had been removed to facilitate the drilling project. I have written to the relevant agencies to flag these issues and ascertain why this is happening and to take appropriate action to mitigate the losses.”
Referring to the demise of the young trees, NI Water pointed out “Sapling trees were planted at the Woodburn site earlier this year by external contractors in co-operation with Forestry Service.”
UUP MLA Roy Beggs voiced concern too. He said: “An urgent investigation is required by DAERA to identify the cause of the fish kill and to confirm whether or not it was caused by the re-stocking process, to re-assure the public about their water source. Drinking water must be protected and lessons need to be learned from this incident.”
Following Mr Dickson’s statement and social media debate, NI Water rejected any link with the controversial Woodburn oil drilling project.
“We wish to state categorically that all activity associated with drilling by Infrastrata in this area during 2016 has ceased and that there has never been any risk to the public water supply in the context of the drilling at any time.
“The site has now been fully restored and there is no question of any associated activity in the vicinity. Furthermore, there is no evidence of any other pollution incident,” NI Water stated
“NI Water is clear that there is no impact from this incident on the final water quality leaving the treatment works. NI Water’s treatment facilities at the Dorisland Water Treatment Works has numerous on-site water parameter monitors which continually check the quality of raw water entering the works and the quality of water going into the public supply. If anything is found that could affect the water quality, the site will automatically shut down and water will be taken from other areas to continue the supply.
“All water quality testing at the Dorisland site has shown satisfactory results.”
The Times has asked DAERA, which is understood to be responsible for the planting of the trees and the stocking of the reservoir, for a response.