2020 was without doubt the worst year for pollution incidents affecting waterways and wildfowl in the West Midlands area that I have ever known in nearly 25 years of rescue.

It ended with two appalling incidents, on the Titford canal in Oldbury, and at The Bumble Hole Nature Reserve in Dudley. The former has yet to be fully dealt with and both required many hours of volunteer work over the Christmas and New Year period when everyone else that should have dealt with it had gone off.

Financially, we spent around £100 of our own booms and pads at Titford, which we have had to buy as a result of the slow action shown in other incidents earlier in the year. This is obviously not going to be recovered, but I have approached the CRT asking them if they can do this, given that we were effectively doing the work of their employees over Christmas, as well as rescuing the birds. Baz from Scared Animal Wildlife Rescue deserves special mention for his time and indefatigable work.




Many people have asked about making a donation about the response to this incident, and although he doesn’t like asking for any, I am giving the link  if anyone would like to donate to replace the booms and pads please follow the link  HERE.  

In the case of Titford pools, we know who the polluter was, and I will name and shame them here as




The canal and Rivers Trust took pictures of the spill from containers in their yard, which backs directly onto the canal near to Uncle Bens Bridge, a yard from where the spill clearly emanated from. The pollution went all the way along the canal and underneath the motorway and pools which are in the ownership of Sandwell council.


I was shown the pictures and apparently this firm claimed to be unaware of the spill until it was pointed out to them, which had obviously taken place over a period of several days. I have however now been informed by the CRT that they had recently visited this site prior to this pollution incident in relation to this exact same problem, due to complaints from local residents about the pollution coming out of this business.  I understand that they will be visited again, but let us hope that more than a verbal warning is given here, as obviously their management did not give a shit about previous warnings given what happened over Christmas. WE NEED MORE THAN WORDS HERE, WE NEED FINES AND CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS THROUGH THE COURTS. 


A sea of oil on the Titford canal


In the case of the Bumble Hole, I firmly believe the culprit who spilt the diesel to be a firm based on a trading estate in Netherton. Be in no doubt, and this goes to anyone else in this area who handles red diesel, your businesses are being watched, and will be reported now for any transgressions however minor. I would like, and will aim to put the business responsible for this incident out of business by whatever means. It affected over 30 birds, some of which have died as a result of these cowboy arseholes. 

I have written to my MP Nicola Richards with regard to these latest problems caused by rogue businesses, and the Environment Agency’s abysmal “Common Incident Classification Scheme” which has once again so far failed to act or prosecute the polluter largely due to it ignoring issues related to birds being affected by pollution events such as these. The attendance or not of the environment agency is based upon this flawed reporting system, by telephonists who cannot see the issue themselves, but are prompted by answers given to them by the callers on a checklist.

I have given more info on this scheme in a post link in this communication, but in summary it reads as


birds covered in oil are not regarded as being involved in a “serious” or “significant ” impact in this scheme, even though they most certainly are, which is totally wrong!

Dear Nicola,

I would be grateful if you could raise this matter with the appropriate channels.
As I am sure that you are aware with previous correspondence, and also press reports, there have been an unacceptable number of pollution incidents within the last year involving industrial releases of diesel and similar hydrocarbons into water courses. This has resulted in near impossible difficulties for wildfowl, which along with the RSPCA, we have had to rescue, wash and rehabilitate.

We have spent a great deal of money on booms and pads. Incidents dealt with at sites within the last year are
#Hydes Road pool, Wednesbury
#Sheepwash nature reserve and River Tame as far as Perry Barr
#Park head locks, Dudley
#Smethwick Hall Park, (as well as the ongoing sewage issue)
#Titford pools

and the latest, as I am sure you are aware at The Bumble Hole.

In the majority of these cases, the EA have been notable by their absence. Dudley council now appear to have the task of paying for clean up of Bumble Hole, which as with the rest of these incidents come through the private water company hands of Severn Trent. My views on the environmental performance of this company, and total failures, are well known, but I think the EA performance now has to be taken up with Government Ministers, as they are failing woefully to address the issues.
The worst part is that their classification system, The Common Incident Classification scheme is not fit for purpose. This classifies incidents according to fish distress and deaths, and never anything else. We have had incidents as above where we have had to catch over 40 birds covered in oil, yet the EA derisively class this as 3 on their pathetic scale. If some fish had died it would have been level 1. They only attend incidents at category 2 and above, and therefore call either Severn Trent or the CRT to deal with anything else.
I would like you to take up this matter with a view to you and your colleagues attempting to reform this classification scheme into it bearing in mind the impact on wild water birds, which it currently is not.
I have detailed some of the issues I am talking about in the following blog posts.

Environment Agency responses | What Lies Beneath Rattlechain Lagoon?

Diesel everywhere! | Save Our Sandwell Canada Geese
There need to be far tougher fines imposed on rogue companies, and jail sentences for directors of these failing companies.

It is perhaps also important that local authorities have specialist equipment on standby to deploy in these situations, as has probably been learnt at Dudley with the latest incident. We have to stop these incidents becoming as frequent as they are, and part of this is the way in which they are dealt with theoretically as well as practically after they happen.

Regards and Happy New Year,
Ian Carroll swanwatch

Reply so far……

“Dear Mr Carroll,

Thank you for getting in touch with me about this important issue, and I hope you had a happy Christmas and New Year.

I will write to DEFRA to ask ministers whether they have any plans to reconsider the Common Incident Classification system to encompass the incidents which you describe and we can take our enquiries from there. I will let you know when I have received a reply. 

I note as well that my enquiry to the Environment agency regarding the water levels in the lake at Brookvale Park has not yet been replied to. I have written once again to the EA as a follow up to ensure this matter is investigated.

If there’s any other issue I can be of help with, please go get in touch and I will do all I can to be of assistance. 

Kind regards,

Nicola Richards MP
Member of Parliament for West Bromwich East

I do hope that a positive response from Defra will be forthcoming, but on previous experience, I am not holding my breath. My advice to people reporting such incidents currently if you care about birds is to state that there are some dead fish in the water, even if there are not.  😉 

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