Birds rescued from oil spill in Hitchin by RSPCA

A SEVERE oil spill on a river in Hitchin resulted in more than 20 birds having to be rescued, in an operation that took several days.

Six RSPCA inspectors began their rescue at Walsworth Common last Tuesday, where they saved a swan, a grebe and mallard ducks.

One inspector waded into the water wearing a dry suit trying to encourage the birds to the edge of the river, where the other inspectors waited with nets.

The birds were all taken to a wildlife hospital where they are said to be doing well.

“It was quite a serious mess really,” said Peter Green, who was one of the inspectors on the scene.


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“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.

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“It is great to hear the birds are doing ok now though. I was quite worried about them.”

It took an hour to wash each bird and they were fed carbon to help get rid of any oil they may have swallowed.

The Environmental Agency said that an officer of theirs had visited the site on Monday, after receiving a phone call alerting them of the spillage.

“An officer visited the site and we believe it was cooking oil poured down a man hole,” said a spokesman.

“This got into a drain, which flowed into the river. This was reported to us on Monday.”

North Herts District Council (NHDC) confirmed that they were aware of the problem.

“On Monday December 13, North Herts District Council were alerted to a problem relating to oil pollution in Walsworth Common, Hitchin,” said a spokesman.

“The Environmental Agency were notified to investigate the cause of pollution. During the investigation, they discovered that a number of birds had been contaminated by the pollution.

“The RSPCA were called to assess the birds and, working in partnership with NHDC officers, the affected birds were caught. NHDC officers are continuing to monitor the effects of the pollution on the common.”

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