Thousands of gallons of disinfectant used to combat foot-and-mouth are pouring into Northern Ireland’s waterways, it was claimed today.
Jim Wilson (UUP, South Antrim) painted a stark picture as he urged Agriculture Minister Brid Rodgers to call in cross-departmental help to help scrutinise pollution levels.
Mrs Rodgers (SDLP, Upper Bann) was briefing the Assembly on the North South Ministerial Council meeting for the Foyle, Carlingford and Irish Lights sector earlier this month.
She told MLAs of the Loughs Agency’s efforts to curb foot-and-mouth, saying agency staff had fully complied with disinfection procedures where they have had to address pollution or water quality issues.
Drawing her attention to this, Mr Wilson called for assurances that the run off of disinfectant is being closely monitored.
He said: ‘‘Thousands of gallons of this are now pouring into our drains, into streams and waterways not just within the Loughs Agency... but the same concern is expressed right across the Province.
‘‘Is the Minister keeping a focus on this and is her staff co-operating with staff in other departments, for example in the Environmental Protection section of the Department of the Environment?’’
Mrs Rodgers replied: ‘‘I would be very aware of the problem of disinfectant or indeed anything else leaking into the waters.
‘‘I have been assured by the agency that they are taking all the necessary precautions on foot-and-mouth and I would imagine being an agency whose main purpose is conservation and protection of the fishing environment that they would certainly be taking precautions to ensure that nothing is done to damage the fish stocks.’’
Mrs Rodgers also told the Assembly that the Dublin meeting had approved three sets of regulations.
:: A tagging and logbook scheme for all salmon and sea trout over 50cm in the Foyle and Carlingford areas to boost existing conservation measures.
:: Lifting a ban on angling along a heavily poached stretch of the River Foyle which been deemed unnecessary when the tagging scheme is introduced.
:: Extending provisions relating to close seasons - periods when anglers are not permitted on waters to protect salmon and trout while spawning - to the Carlingford area.