Sun, 06 Sept 2020
EXPERTS have warned the public to avoid the water at a Thatcham beauty spot.
As previously reported by the Newbury Weekly News, fish were seen floating in the lake around the popular Nature Discovery Centre, after a heatwave triggered an algal bloom.
One local resident, Jackie Field, said: “It stinks down there; fish dead on the surface and around the edges and seagulls swarming around.”
The Environment Agency said in a statement: “We were first made aware of the algal bloom on August 18 in the evening.
“Algal blooms are natural events and are not uncommon during the summer months.
“At this particular lake, algal blooms have been a regular occurrence for a number of years which staff at the visitor centre are aware of.
“Reports of fish in distress often increase in the summer due to natural processes reducing oxygen levels in the water.
“Hot, sunny weather can lead to low flows in rivers, and small still waters are particularly susceptible as ponds and lakes start to warm up.
“When responding to incidents we categorise them according to their severity and allocate resources where we can have the greatest impact.
“Our fisheries teams have been extremely busy recently dealing with incidents such as this across the South East.”
The agency said it did not know how many fish died, but added: “We believe the water is owned by the council and is managed by a third party.
“When we first responded to an incident in 2016 we informed the owners that the incident was driven by elevated nutrients and the only real way of managing this was to reduce and or control the nutrient inputs to the lake.
“It is not possible to aerate the water as this would stir up sediments and worsen the situation.
“The resident birds clearly contribute a significant nutrient load to the water, but there are also thousands of people who visit the site and feed the birds, which adds further nutrients to the water.
“We believe the owner makes some efforts to ‘police’ this, but it is extremely difficult for them to control 24/7.”
It called for the authorities to put up signs warning the public of the risk of a potential algal bloom on the lake.
The statement went on: “Whilst there is any risk of an algal bloom, people should not go in to or near the water, or pick anything up that may have been in the water.
“They should also not allow any pets to go into or drink from the water.
“People should also wash their hands thoroughly if they have been in contact with the water.
“Feeding of the birds at this lake is exacerbating the problem of these algal blooms.
“The uneaten food, along with the droppings from the birds, has enriched this shallow lake with nutrients which is a major contributing factor to these algal blooms.”