Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 1 November 2014

Pollution fears over lugworm carnage

Mystery surrounds the deaths of thousands of shore-dwelling worms on one of the North Coast’s most popular beaches.

The piles of dead lugworms were found strewn along Castlerock Beach at low tide by local businesswoman Kay Sweeney.

She suspects the dead invertebrates could be a symptom of chemical poisoning and reported the incident to Northern Ireland Environment Agency, which is responsible for enforcing anti-pollution legislation.

However, inspectors from NIEA drew a blank when they went to Castlerock to investigate.

Mrs Sweeney said she found the dead lugworms on Sunday when she was taking her daily walk with her dog Basil.

“It was like walking on a carpet of thousands of dead lugworms. I thought something has gone badly wrong here,” she said. “I was out walking again on Monday and it was still as bad — the animals were still lying on the sea bed. They were in horrendous numbers.”

Mrs Sweeney said she was concerned that some kind of chemical spill from a boat moored offshore could have been responsible. “There was a lot of debris and evidence of cleaning stuff and old rags and gloves that all came in at the same time,” she said.

“If something is being dumped on the shore and if that is what is causing those deaths then we need to know about it.”

An NIEA spokeswoman said: “A water quality inspector was tasked to the area to investigate the report and assess if there was any environmental impact.

“The inspector observed no visible evidence of pollution or large numbers of dead lugworms as reported. However, as a precaution, the site will be revisited today at low tide.”

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