Clean up operation as hundreds of litres of oil pollutes river

Officers from Natural Resources Wales (NRW) have launched an investigation and clean-up operation after 300-400 litres of oil leaked into the River Berem in Pontyberem on Saturday 17 January 2015.

The source of the pollution was traced to a nearby residential heating oil tank on Mynachlor Road where it is believed an act of vandalism led to the spill.

Heddlu Dyfed Powys Police have started their own investigation into the suspected case of vandalism and are appealing for witnesses or anyone who may have information about this incident to please call 101, or alternatively call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

NRW are now working closely with Carmarthenshire County Council, Heddlu Dyfed Powys Police, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service and Public Health Wales to manage the impact of the incident on the environment, local people and the homeowners.

Jon Willington, leading on the investigation for NRW, said:

“Our main aim at the moment is try and establish what happened and stop any more oil from entering the river. We have specialist contractors coming to site later today to assess what more can be done.

“By today there is only a slight sheen on the river and the smell has almost gone. The oil isn’t pleasant we don’t expect it to cause long lasting damage to the environment.

“We are also working with the local authorities and the police to support the homeowners.  They are an elderly couple who are shocked by the incident so we are making sure that they are kept safe and warm at this difficult time.”

The incident late on Saturday night (17/01/2015) caused a sheen to affect over 1.5km of the river. An assessment by an NRW officer found the spill is not expected to cause any serious impact on water quality and local wildlife and has not entered the River Gwendraeth.

The main impact on the weekend was strong odours affecting the local community but this has now reduced significantly.

Huw Brunt, Consultant in Environmental Health Protection for Public Health Wales, said:

“Given the outdoor setting and dispersion and dilution of the pollution in the water, the risk of any public health effects associated with this incident is low. It is possible that odours may remain in the locality as a result of this spill, but odours may be detected at levels below those that may cause a health concern.

“Having contact with or breathing in fumes from this type of heating oil can cause some ill-health effects including eye, skin and respiratory irritation and drowsiness. Although this is highly unlikely, please report any health effects to Public Health Wales on 029 2040 2478.”

Carmarthenshire County Council’s Head of Public Protection and Housing, Robin Staines, said:

“We will continue to work with partner agencies to assess the level of pollution and respond appropriately.”

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