Oil contamination in a river in Hitchin has led to a wildlife rescue operation after more than 20 birds were significantly oiled after using the river.
The rescue operation took several days to be complete on Walsworth Common, with one RSPCA inspector braving the cold weather and wading into the water in an attempt to coax the oiled birds to the bank, where other inspectors with nets were waiting.
All the birds have been taken to a nearby wildlife hospital to be cleaned.
The Environment Agency made an urgent response after receiving a phone call informing them that cooking oil had been poured down a manhole which then flowed into the river.
An Environment Agency spokesperson stated:
“An officer visited the site and we believe it was cooking oil poured down a man hole,”
“This got into a drain, which flowed into the river. This was reported to us on Monday.”
One of the RSPCA inspectors at the scene stated:
“It was quite a serious mess really,”
“It’s pretty unusual for it to be so bad. Even though the birds were covered in oil and in quite a bad way, they were hard to catch. We were constantly trying for at least six hours.
“The birds were constantly trying to clean off the oil also. They were exhausting themselves with the effort, plus there are all kinds of issues with them ingesting oil.
“It is great to hear the birds are doing ok now though. I was quite worried about them.”