Booms deployed and swans rescued in month-long operation to clear oil from water near Peterborough

Environment Agency staff were forced to deploy booms and RSPCA teams have been rescuing swans in a month-long operation to clear dumped oil from a watercourse near Peterborough.

Friday, 4th September 2020, 1:49 pm
Two of the rescued swans. Picture: RSPCA Peterborough & District branch

The month-long operation followed the discovery of a large quantity of oil in a watercourse near Peakirk and Glinton which is believed to have been illegally dumped.

One swan was rescued a week ago and, as reported by the Peterborough Telegraph on Thursday (August 3), two more swans were rescued and taken to a wildlife hospital for specialist cleaning.

An Environment Agency spokesperson said officers have been working for weeks to control the spill.

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He said: “Over the last month we have been responding to reports of oil in the watercourse around Glinton and Peakirk, Peterborough, which may have been illegally dumped.

“As a result our officers have been deploying absorbent booms to soak up the pollution and have been investigating the potential source.

“On Wednesday evening we received reports of a swan covered in oil in the area. The RSPCA were also informed who came and rescued two swans.

“Our officers will continue to clean up the pollution and monitor the situation.

“Disposing of waste in watercourses is illegal.

“Anyone who suspects this is taking place should report it to our incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60 or anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”

It is understood the oil may have been dumped from a container into the water and so far they have not been able to identify the source of the pollution.

RSPCA inspector Justin Stubbs said: “Thanks to the support of Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service myself and my colleague Justin Disdale were able to work with them and catch a number of birds on the waterway - thankfully most had not been affected by the spillage but we will continue to keep an eye on the waterfowl in the area over the coming days in case more need to be rescued and treated.

“Once the three swans have been thoroughly cleaned they will be able to recuperate and will then be released back into the wild.”

If oil is not removed from waterbirds it reduces the natural waterproofing in their plumage, leaving them at risk of dying from hypothermia - so it is vital that they are treated as soon as possible.

For more information on what to do if you find a wild animal in need of help, visit the RSPCA website at:

The RSPCA would recommend anyone who sees pollution on water or land to call the Environment Agency 24-hour incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60.

Concerns for a wild animal that has come into contact with oil or other contaminants should be reported to the RSPCA’s emergency line on 0300 1234 999.

A spokesman for Cambridgeshire Fire & Rescue said: “Crews from Dogsthorpe and Stanground were called at 9.50am (Thursday September 3) to assist RSPCA staff at Thorney Road in Peakirk.

“Using a rescue sled they worked with the officers to help rescue a pack of swans that were covered in oil. The crews returned to their stations by midday.”