As farmers approach the peak of silage making season, Laois County Council forecast the imminent possibility of major fish kills throughout the county and warns farmers this week to be extremely vigilant as even the smallest volume of effluent discharge or farm waste could do untold damage to fish stocks in the streams and rivers at this time of year.
This seasonal pollution of the environment combined with the controversy surrounding the disposal of asbestos and the possible dangers to the countryside from the Zinc Mine development in Galmoy is putting Laois at the centre of national attention again.
Acutely aware of the concern in the community and the emerging green consciousness in society at large, Conroy Petroleum made yet another bid to allay fears when assurances were given in County Hall on Monday that disruption would be minimal from the excavation of zinc at Galmoy.
Mr Kevin McNair, pollution officer with Laois County Council, has urged the farming community to be extra careful so that fish kills can be avoided this summer.
He said that fish life was already at risk because of the low water levels at the moment.
“The situation is exacerbated this year because we have had an extremely dry May followed by a warm month of June. The fish are under stress even without any effluent spillage from the low volume of water and the high temperatures.”
Already this summer in Laois two fish kills have occurred as a result of the green river system. Some 50 trout died in the River Barrow near Clonaslee when the oxygen level dropped last week.
The oxygen was depleted by the green algae which results from the excessive nutrients in the water caused by industrial, domestic and farm effluence.
The fluctuating oxygen levels were also responsible for the fish kill in the Triogue outside Mountmellick earlier this month. While in Kildare there has been the much publicised pollution on the Boherbawn, a tributary of the Barrow.
And now a change in the weather could have drastic consequences for fish life. Heavy rainfall and flash flooding could cause a major fish kill at this time of year. The water will accumulate in the many channels. It will then cause the materials in clogged overflow drains to flow into the rivers.
Mr McNair pointed out that one gallon of silage will deplete the oxygen in 10,000 gallons of water.
In the meantime, Laois County Council is doing its utmost to avert any disaster this year.