AS investigations continue into a slurry spill which killed hundreds of fish in the River Loobagh earlier this month, the regional director of Inland Fisheries Ireland has said pollution from farms is a declining phenomenon.
But Amanda Mooney warned that there is “still a lot of work to do” to ensure everybody is compliant with environmental and water quality regulations.
Inland Fisheries Ireland counted 555 dead trout and salmon arising from the pollution incident outside Kilmallock on August 4. Local anglers found around 100 more, while the number of dead fish that didn’t rise to the surface can only be guessed at.
“We are continuing the investigation,” said Ms Mooney, who is IFI’s director for the Shannon River Basin District.
“We have taken analysis samples. We have identified the source. Thankfully, we were able to get the source themselves to do some mitigation work to stop it from going any further. We have alleviated the pollution problem itself. The other side of it then is that it may result in a prosecution so I can’t really discuss that side of it any further,” Ms Mooney said.
Asked about the level of compliance from farmers in general, she said: “Inland Fisheries Ireland has worked an awful lot with the agricultural sector”.
“A lot of it is about education and awareness on the agricultural side and Teagasc have been on board with us on that. We have been tutoring a lot of people on how to maintain water quality but still have farming happening at the same time. It is hard to get the balance right, especially with intensive farming.
“What we would do if we come across a farm where we suspect it could cause pollution, which in the end could result in a fish kill if let go, is we would talk to the farmer and give him a warning, number one, if there isn’t any deleterious matter going into the river itself and advise him how to clean up the farm,” Ms Mooney explained.
“Then we would come back and do an inspection and monitor it. But we rely an awful lot on anglers and members of the general public who are out on the riverbanks because we can’t be everywhere at the same time. We get a lot of reports from anglers and the general community where they suspect pollution is happening. And we respond to that immediately - there’s nothing left to chance.”
Compliance from farmers, Ms Mooney said, had “increasingly improved”.
“But by no means are we at the end of ensuring everybody is compliant. There is still a lot of work to be done in the region but I think it is improving through a lot of the projects we have had going on with our own staff, with the Department of Agriculture and also with local authorities.”
Councils played a role in slurry spreading guidelines as well as the amount of matter that can be held in slurry tanks and how to mitigate against any overflow.
“Nature comes into it a lot. We have had a mild year, which doesn’t help. We have hard, dry ground so your saturation level is not optimal. It is sitting on top. We would have liked to have seen a little rain so that the saturation point is better and so that when they are spreading, it goes into the ground and is not sitting on top ready to run off and into a water body. But in saying that, it has improved immensely and we will continue to work with the farming community into the future,” said Ms Mooney.