Dead fish on oil drill land may have been starved of oxygen
FISH found dead on land at the former site of a controversial exploratory oil drill project in Co Antrim may have perished as a result of oxygen deficiency incurred during transport to the site.
Photographs of dead fish in the Woodburn Reservoir catchment area, near Carrickfergus, began to circulate on social media on Monday night.
InfraStrata, the company behind the project, abandoned work at the site last June after finding no oil.
The company had leased land at Woodburn Forest from Northern Ireland Water for an exploratory drill, which sparked protests at the site.
NI Water said that fish stocks had recently been restocked at the site and it is considered likely that the deaths are "as a result of an oxygen deficiency incurred during transport to the site" and this theory would remain under review.
A spokesman said: "We wish to state categorically that all activity associated with drilling by InfraStrata in this area during 2016 has ceased and that there has never been any risk to the public water supply in the context of the drilling at any time."
A spokesman for Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) said it was assessing "whether the equipment supplying oxygen to the fish being transported may have been faulty".
"Woodburn waters lie higher than the test drilling site and therefore it's unlikely anything arising from it would impact on them."
The spokesman added: "DAERA staff have been onsite over the last few days and have confirmed that anglers are catching fish and fish can be seen jumping in the Woodburn dams."
In response to a separate claim that trees, planted earlier this year to replace those removed during the oil drill, had died, the department said the trees were showing "typical signs of stress" which are to be expected.
The spokesman said: "Newly-planted trees can show effects of stress due to a number of reasons such as adverse weather conditions, animal grazing or insect damage.
"The trees at Woodburn are showing typical signs of stress such as needle drop due to the recent prolonged dry spell."