People are being warned by the Environment Agency to stay away from the River Nene in Peterborough in case chemicals spilled at Orton Southgate are in the water.
The chemicals, although highly diluted by the river, are a potential irritant to people and may be present in the water as far away as the Dog in a Doublet Sluice.
The Agency is issuing a precautionary warning to people although they have not been able to link the chemicals spilled to reports of thousands of fish struggling and some dead fish in the water along the stretch of the River Nene between Orton Mere and sluice.
Anglian Water, local downstream abstractors, the RSPB, Nene Parks Trust, river users, the local authority, internal drainage boards and the Health Protection Agency have also been alerted by the Agency.
Samples have been taken from the water and results will soon be known.
“Although we can not link a report of chemicals spilled at Orton Southgate, the chemicals are toxic to fish. Although very unlikely to cause a problem for people due to the dilution, we are advising them to stay away from the water as a precaution,” said Environment Agency team leader Manfai Tang.
“There is no sign of pollution at the moment but we have eliminated other causes such as low dissolved oxygen and ammonia,” he said.
“The river is flowing fast at the moment as we have had a lot of rain which will, of course, help to dilute any pollution,” he said.
A penstock close to Orton Southgate has been closed so if any chemical was passing through surface water drains into the river it will be blocked.
Anyone concerned about being in contact with the water and who has skin irritation should wash skin and hair with soap and water in the first instance. If irritation persists they are advised to seek medical advice.
If anyone has irritation in their eyes after being in contact with the water they should flush immediately with plenty of drinking water for 15 minutes and seek medical attention if irritation persists.
Although there are some dead fish most appear to be struggling including roach, spined loach, eels, perch and tench.
Any further reports of fish struggling should contact the Environment Agency emergency hotline on 0800 80 70 60.
The chemical spill at Orton Southgate is being investigated by police and the Environment Agency.
Anyone concerned should ring NHS Direct on: 0845 4647
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