Members of a community committed to preserving and regenerating the historic Stroudwater canal have branded what looks to be oil dumped into the water as “one step removed from taking an air rifle to a swan”.
Several concerned members of the public have reported the huge oil slick that appeared in the canal near Dr Newton’s Way in Stroud to the Environment Agency.
A spokesperson from the Environment Agency said: “One of our officers visited the location on Saturday in response to black engine oil being found near to Dr Newtons Way, Stroud.
“We have attended the site again today with the canal owners, the Cotswold Canal Trust, following the discovery of a larger area of the canal with oil on it.
“We were initially unable to deploy absorbents to remove the oil that we saw on Saturday owing to it being caught in vegetation. However, upon the discovery of the larger oil contaminated area we are deploying oil booms to contain the oil, with a view to removing it in due course.
“We now believe the oil has come from a nearby industrial estate interceptor, which is privately owned. It appears to be a one off event and not a continuous discharge. We will be following up with the Industrial Estate to check the state of the interceptor and offer pollution prevention advice.”
Adam Thomas, who lives near to the canal and walks his dog there every day, said he had first spotted the oil on Thursday.
“I was horrified to notice the slick on the water. It appeared to be coming from a pipe that leads off a storm drain,” he said.
“It’s moved downstream and spread over the last few days, but you can see it clinging to reeds in places. It’s devastating to think that someone could do this.”
Mr Thomas’s horror is echoed by Cotswolds Canal Trust chief executive officer Ken Burgin, who is also director of the company that owns the Stroudwater navigation. He said he believed that the oil had purposefully been dumped in the canal.
“At best it’s an incredibly stupid thing to for someone to do,” Mr Burgin said.
“At worst it’s criminal and could have a huge impact on the wildlife on the canal.”
“We are very, very concerned,” Cotswolds Canal Trust director Peter Best said.
“Although we can’t see any evidence that fish and birds have been killed there will be environmental, and financial costs for the devastating actions.
“It is so selfish and disappointing that someone has done this. It will have a significant impact on the charity.”
Anyone who knows anything should contact the Environment Agency incident hotline on 0800 807060.