A scientific report has found that heavy metals have begun to accumulate in the food chain in parts of the
River Derwent in the Peak District National Park, Derbyshire, following a pollution incident last year.
In January 2007, a settlement lagoon owned by Glebe Mines burst, discharging volumes of sediment into the
Derwent via one of its tributaries, the Stoke Brook. The sediment was contaminated with mine tailings – fine
waste material – which included arsenic, cadmium, lead and other metals.
The report commissioned by the Anglers’ Conservation Association (ACA) warns that lead levels in insects from
the impacted areas are significantly elevated and there is a high risk that the levels in fish may rise. Over time,
the range of elevated metals may pose a threat to the fish and the ecosystem, as well as exceeding the
recommended safe lead limit for human consumption.
Dr. Nick Everall, the Aquatic Ecotoxicologist who conducted the survey on behalf of the ACA and the fishing
clubs, said: “I conservatively calculated from lead levels in invertebrates that there was a high risk of the fish
tissue samples exceeding lead guidelines for human consumption. Some other metals which remain in the
sediments and the fly life were also above background levels, but not as marked as the lead concentrations.”
An Environment Agency (EA) report published shortly after the pollution suggested that prompt action was
needed to minimise the damage caused and that there should be proper investigations and monitoring of the
heavy metals in the sediment deposited in the river.
However, the EA sampling that has taken place has been so limited that the ACA was forced to instruct its
The trial remediation work is due to begin in June 2008, almost 17 months after the pollution.
Dr. Justin Neal, solicitor for the ACA said: “When a pollution of this magnitude occurs, one would expect the
statutory body charged with the enforcement and regulation of environmental matters to act swiftly in
investigating and then using its powers to remediate the problems. However, it appears that although it was
initially quick to instruct its own expert, the Agency was then content to sit back and let the insurers for Glebe
Mines sort out the problems. 17 months on, we are without a full investigation into the heavy metals levels in
the fish and the remediation is yet to begin. This is not a satisfactory state of affairs.”
Mark Lloyd, the ACA’s Executive Director added: “The ACA’s members who fish on this river are
understandably exasperated by the way in which the Environment Agency has handled this incident. Quite
apart from the damage to the invertebrate and fish life in the river, there are very real implications for the health
of any anglers who might have taken fish to eat. The Agency’s response to the ACA’s demands for action has