Slug poison was found in one in eight rivers and reservoirs used for drinking water in England and Wales according to the Environment Agency’s (EA) most recent survey.
This has prompted environmentalists to call for greater use of natural predators instead of chemicals. Last November, levels 100 times higher than EU regulations were detected at a water treatment intake on the River Stour in Essex, which supplies water to homes in Essex and Suffolk.
Levels spiked in late 2011 and persisted into 2012 due to wet weather creating runoff and ideal slug breeding conditions.
The obvious source of slug pellets is our gardens, but huge quantities of this chemical are also being used to grow rape seed oil, winter beans, sugar beet and brassicas such as broccoli.
There is currently no regulation to stop widespread use of the chemical and Pond Conservation director Jeremy Biggs said current methods for limiting runoff were ineffective, although he added there were few concerns about human health.
This pair of guillemots were casualties of pollution by PIB. Pic: RSPB
Three leading wildlife organisations have joined together to call for the ban on the discharge of polyisobutene (PIB), which has killed hundreds of seabirds.
The disaster of hundreds of seabirds dying along England’s southern coast because of marine pollution has prompted the RSPB, the RSPCA and The Wildlife Trust to write to Transport Minister Stephen Hammond, alerting him to the growing threat.
The three charities are urging the minister to take a lead in driving an international reclassification of the man-made substance to prohibit the discharge of PIB at sea. PIB renders seabirds helpless, restricting their mobility and preventing them from feeding as the chemical coats their plumage. There have have been two pollution incidents involving PIB along the South Coast this year, and at least three others around European coasts in recent years.
The chemical is used in the manufacture of a range of products including lubricants to football bladders, chewing gum to cling film, and it is also used to control the thickness of oils.
It can be legal to discharge PIB when ships wash out their tanks at sea, but these permissions are based on tests carried out under laboratory conditions and no consideration is taken of what happens when the chemical meets sea water, beyond whether the substance floats or sinks.
In the sea, however, the polyisobutene transforms into a glue-like, ‘waxy’ formation, coating the feathers of birds, preventing them from diving and finding food. Alec Taylor, the RSPB’s marine policy officer, said: “This material is a killer which has claimed the lives of thousands of seabirds, causing many to suffer a lingering death. It cannot be right that it is legal to release it in any quantity into our seas.”
The three wildlife charities are calling on the Minister to write to the International Maritime Organisation to request a review of PIB’s hazard status under the Marpol Convention, which states it is legal to discharge PIB when a vessel’s tanks are flushed at sea. The campaigning group 38 Degrees has also launched an e-action urging the government to take action.
The mystery substance found on hundreds of seabirds washed up on the south coast is a “mixture of refined mineral oils”, says the Environment Agency.
Wildlife experts have warned many more birds could be affected by the waxy substance. Hundreds of birds were found on beaches from Sussex to Cornwall on Thursday. Environment Minister Richard Benyon said: “Every effort is being made to identify the cause of this problem. I’d like to thank everyone involved in helping the seabirds affected and it’s thanks to their efforts that many have been cleaned up and now have a chance of survival.”
The total rescue count so far is 162 alive and rescued, but 200 are dead, including a juvenile puffin, a fulmar and 3 razorbills. It is thought the substance may have been dumped into the English Channel by a ship. Most birds have been found in Dorset but others are appearing in Sussex, Hampshire, Devon and Cornwall.
Posted in Birds, Nature, Oil spills, Wildlife
Tagged birds, birdwatching, conservation, nature, pollution, RSPB, RSPCA, seabirds, wildlife
Hundreds of seabirds have been washed up along the south coast of England between Dorset and Cornwall, covered in a waxy, glue-like substance.
The RSPB and RSPCA have launched a rescue operation today after more than 100 birds, mainly guillemots, were washed ashore. Many were found at Chesil Cove near Weymouth, but others are appearing up to 200 miles away in Cornwall, some of them already dead.
The RSPCA said the birds were “not responding well” to the cleaning techniques, normally used to remove oil. Dorset Wildlife Trust has urged people not to attempt to rescue any washed up birds but to alert the RSPCA.