Hundreds of fish have been found dead in a waterway that runs close to a York primary school.
The fish were discovered in Elvington beck.
This grim discovery follows months when villagers have been beset by a strong smell emanating from the beck, at its strongest close to Elvington Church of England Primary School.
Many villagers, and ward councillor Christian Vassie, have complained to the Environment Agency about the smell, which began in December.
It was so pungent that householders were forced to keep doors and windows closed even in the hot weather.
The Environment Agency confirmed recently that the source of the pollution in the beck had been found and that action had been taken.
But, days later, residents were horrified to see hundreds of dead fish in the beck. Whether the two issues are linked or not has yet to be established.
Villager Andrea Tranter described the fish deaths as “quite sickening”.
She said: “I have been here 11 years and never seen anything like it before and we can’t afford to lose so much in one go and clearly they suffered in the process.
“I am concerned for all the wildlife as it is probably not just the fish being affected but things further up the food chain in the circle of life as well.”
Cllr Vassie described it as a “pollution scandal in slow motion”.
He said: “I’m incredibly frustrated that this is yet another example of the problems we have got with pollution in rivers across the country.
“The Environment Agency tells me that they have identified the source of the oil. Domestic heating oil has been leaking from a business on the industrial estate.
“Those responsible have been instructed to fix the leak and to remove the land/soil that has been contaminated. The EA assured me that the oil is not coming from a business selling heating oil but from a business using it to heat their premises.
“The city council has finally escalated its response and is now also asking for answers and action. I have repeatedly asked the EA at what point they will move to prosecute if the matter is not resolved.
“I walked the beck this lunchtime and saw the hundreds of dead fish for myself. I believe that these are common minnows; can someone with expertise confirm or deny this?”
He said an Environment Agency worker had taken measurements in the beck and discovered problems with the levels of oxygen and ammonia. She wasn’t equipped to test for oil.
“Low oxygen levels and high levels of ammonia – commonly from agricultural runoff – can kill fish so it may be the case that, in this instance, the fish have not been killed by oil,” Cllr Vassie said.
He has asked for an on-site meeting between the agency and city council.
“Regardless of whether the dead fish are a result of the oil or of agricultural fertilisers entering the Beck, or another source; the whole thing is a pollution scandal in slow motion and totally unacceptable.
“The Environment Agency has had eight months to fix this. It’s just harrowing that we are not getting anywhere fast enough.
“This beck goes past a primary school and heads into a nature reserve.”
An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “A number of reports have been received about dead fish in Elvington Beck, York. Officers are investigating the Beck for potential sources of pollution.
“We’d like to thank the concerned members of the public for raising this with us. It’s important people who spot fish in distress report it to our 24/7 incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60 so that our officers can investigate.”