Driffield News

Suspected oil spill at pond leaves ducklings dead and a number of residents feeling ill

Villagers, parish councillors, the RSPCA and animal rescue volunteers were amongst those who came together in Middleton-on-the-Wolds to rescue pond life to combat the threat of an environmental disaster which has left residents feeling unwell and schoolchildren in tears.

A substance likened to heating oil had made its way into the water on Front Street and was first spotted on Sunday 22nd May.

Attempts were made to contact the Environment Agency (EA) in the hope that it would be able to identify the substance and resolve the issue.

However, with no response by the following day, members of Middleton-on-the-Wolds Parish Council and residents teamed up, along with help from two RSPCA officers and volunteers from Beverley-based Bradbury Bird and Wildlife, in a bid to rescue animals both on top of and under the water.

Karen Rummens’ garden fence adjoins that of the pond and she said that she and husband Gary first noticed a pungent smell when returning from a day out on Sunday evening.

She was amongst the volunteers helping out the following day and has since been left feeling unwell.

Karen explained: “Our back garden adjoins the pond’s perimeter and when we came home last Sunday, we noticed a strong smell.

“We didn’t know where it was coming from and couldn’t see anything which we felt could have caused it until we went right up to our fence which is next to the pond.

“I helped out on Monday afternoon, but by Tuesday I had a really thick head and sore throat, whilst my eyes were sore and itchy until Thursday and Gary also had a headache.

“Where we live, we can’t escape the acrid smell which even penetrates into our home when our doors and windows are shut.

“I’m really disappointed in EA’s lack of action. I even called them twice myself on Monday but was told that since it is not a commercial fishing lake or pond, they’re basically not interested.

“All of the agencies you’d think would be there in this situation, they’re the one we’re still waiting for.”

The majority of last Monday was spent rounding up ducks and ducklings living in and around the pond who had become soaked with the oil-like liquid.

In total, six ducks, 15 ducklings and one domestic duck were rescued and taken to Aldgate Veterinary Practice in Driffield to be cleaned before being taken to a sanctuary and transferred to RSPCA’s East Winch Wildlife Centre near King’s Lynn.

Sadly, some ducklings died as a result of the contamination.

Residents and RSPCA officers worked together to try to save the ducks.

Parish councillor, Tina Walker, told the Wolds Weekly: “There is a film of what looks like heating oil over the pond in the village which was first noticed by some residents on Sunday.

“We made calls to the EA but heard nothing back and all the action started on Monday.

“There were ducks on the grass bank which were clearly in distress and the chicks were covered in the oil.
“There were plenty of people there helping out and we managed to round-up most of the ducks.

“Sarah from Bradbury Bird and Wildlife was absolutely fantastic and she and her team deserve a lot of credit.”

Sarah Nethercoast is owner of charitable organisation Bradbury Bird and Wildlife and she spent the majority of the rescue in the water at Middleton Pond.

“We received a call from the parish council about the incident and I gave some short-term advice over the phone before contacting some of my volunteers to help,” she explained.

“We took nets and other rescuing equipment, conducted a perimeter check and co-ordinated those who had come to help.

“It was a long day and the fumes coming from the oil were very strong and I could still smell them in my home on Wednesday.

Vets at Aldgate vets tried to clean the ducks with soapy water before they were taken to a wildlife centre.

“I think we managed to get most of the wildlife from above the water to safety.

“It is concerning how much of the substance the ducks may have ingested and you could see evidence of ammonia poisoning on the ducklings’ beaks.”

Both the RSPCA and Aldgate Vets stated that now that the ducks and ducklings have been cleaned, they should have no further health issues.

Vet Lucy Butler said: “The ducks were brought in by the RSPCA and they smelled very strongly of oil, so they had obviously been in it for some time and it had penetrated deep into their plumage.

“Our team spent much of the afternoon washing them with soapy water before they were taken to a sanctuary to be looked after. I would expect them to be absolutely fine now.”

An RSPCA spokesperson said: “We were called to reports that a number of ducklings and ducks were covered in oil in a pond near Front Street.

“Our officers attended and rescued six ducks, 15 ducklings and one domestic duck from the contaminated water.

“They were taken to a local vet before they went to an animal rescue centre to be stabilised for two nights.

“Sadly, some of the ducklings died, but the others were transferred to the RSPCA’s East Winch Wildlife Centre where the oil was cleaned from their plumage.

“If oil is not removed from waterbirds, it reduces the natural waterproofing in their plumage, leaving them at risk of dying from hypothermia – so it is vital that they are treated as soon as possible.

“Once the ducks and ducklings have been rehabilitated, they will be released back into the wild. The RSPCA is currently monitoring the pond and was expecting to rescue further ducks and ducklings last Friday (27th May).

“The RSPCA would recommend anyone who sees pollution on water or land to call the Environment Agency 24-hour incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60.

“There’s more information about what to do if you find wildlife affected by oil on the RSPCA’s website: rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/wildlife/injuredanimals.”

Concerns were also raised going forward should the oil remain in place for several days.

The liquid does not mix with water and therefore has created a film on top of the water, preventing oxygen from entering the pond and suffocating remaining aquatic life.

Due to their lack of response, the EA have been heavily criticised by those who helped with the clean-up.
Sarah added: “This pond is home to protected sticklebacks and I think it’s disgusting that the EA has done nothing about the situation yet.

“Aquatic life is slowly getting poisoned by the substance and the film is has created is stopping oxygen from entering the water too.

“Should there be enough rain, the water containing the oil will leave via the outlay pipe which could then enter the watercourse.

“This is concerning for both the health of people and nearby animals and their habitats.

“Getting the liquid skimmed off the top of the pond has to be a priority, as it will drastically remove the chance of further casualties.”

Tina added her frustrations about the EA and stated that it is having both physical and emotional impacts on residents of Middleton.

She said: “There have been half a dozen calls to the EA, but they have basically told us that they are not interested.

“Both the wildlife and residents’ health are at risk because of this.

“Those who spent time helping out on Monday and people who live nearby have complained of headaches and feeling unwell due to the toxicity of the fumes.

“One lady’s eyes were streaming on Monday afternoon and I thought she was upset about the situation and the ducks, but it was due to the fumes from the oil.

“It’s very upsetting for a number of schoolchildren too, as many feed the ducks as part of their daily walk to and from school.

“One little boy was actually in tears as he wondered where they had gone.”

With few natural heating sources in Middleton, most homeowners use gas or oil tanks to heat their properties.

There are suspicions that a leak from an underground pipe may be the cause of the incident, with the parish council believing that there is no malice behind the spill at this stage.

Barriers have been erected around the pond and a boom put in place in a bid to prevent further threat until a permanent solution can be found.

The Wolds Weekly contacted the Environment Agency for comment and a spokesperson claimed that it had visited Middleton Pond and that there is ‘no ongoing impact’.

They said: “We take reports of pollution seriously and prioritise attendance based on risk to the environment.

“Small oil spills, although shocking in appearance, rarely have a big lasting effect on nature.

“We visited Middleton-on-the-Wolds on Tuesday 24th May to investigate reports of oil in the pond.

“Our environment officers found there was very little visible oil and concluded there is no ongoing impact to the local habitat or wildlife.”

Middleton-on-the-Wolds Parish Clerk, Sandra Morrison, said: “It’s a problem for us as a parish council as we’re not totally sure what the pollutant is at the moment and it’s very disappointing that EA haven’t been out to assess the situation.

“As far as I know, the pond drains out to the north side into the dyke further up the village on the other side of Station Road and stops there, so hopefully any overflow won’t be harmful further afield.

“Credit to East Riding of Yorkshire Council which sent one of their team to ensure that it was not their drains which were the issue.

“The parish council’s insurance company is now involved and they have sent their own environmental specialist.

“A boom has been put onto the pond to try to contain the pollution and if anymore was to appear, hopefully it will help us to discover the source.

“The parish council has erected barriers around the pond and respectfully we’d like to ask that they are left in place.

“They were knocked over one day last week, but they are there for public safety reasons and we ask that people bear with us as we are dealing with the incident as quickly as we can.”

Related Articles

Back to top button

Adblock Detected

Please allow ads on our site Ads help pay for our website and content. Switch off your ad-blocker and enjoy.