Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots and his Irish counterpart Charlie McConalogue have said they were shocked to see first-hand the “devastation” caused to important fishing rivers by a peat slippage.
The ministers visited Meenbog in the Ballybofey area of Co Donegal, where construction at a wind farm has caused the major incident that saw thousands of tonnes of peat pollute local rivers.
Given the pollution of the Mourne Beg River and the Derg River, Corgary Trout Farm in Castlederg in neighbouring Co Tyrone has been badly hit by the incident two weeks ago.
The wind farm developer has since suspended all works at the site, with the exception of those that relate to mitigating the impact of the bog slide and reducing the risk of further slides.
The scale of the damage is shocking - the devastation caused by the peat slide to the local river systems is very serious and there is substantial ongoing damage inflicted on the Corgary Trout Farm.
Mr Poots, who also visited Corgary Trout Farm, said: “It is clear that this peat slide has had an immediate impact on fish and the ecosystems upon which they rely, but until conditions permit, it is not possible to quantify that impact.
“Our immediate priority is to try to prevent any further slippage or pollution entering the waterways.
“There has been a large-scale, cross-border and multi-agency reaction to this incident and I am encouraged that all agencies involved are moving at pace to limit the risk of further damage, and will then be working together on restorative actions to remediate the affected rivers and the wider ecosystems.”
Representatives from the Loughs Agency, Northern Ireland Environment Agency, National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, Donegal County Council, and Derry City and Strabane District Council are keeping the situation under review and co-ordinating the response.
Mr McConalogue added: “This has been a really worthwhile joint visit with Minister Poots, which has allowed us both to see the damage on the ground for ourselves and to hear about the steps being undertaken by the wind farm developer to prevent further pollution.
“I was also pleased to see the speed with which the cross-border multi agency group was established in response to this incident and it was helpful to get a briefing from them on the work they are doing collaboratively to support efforts to mitigate against any further pollution.”
The affected rivers form part of a large system feeding into the River Foyle - that system is protected as an Area of Special Scientific Interest and is also recognised internationally as a Special Area of Conservation.
Incredible footage of the massive landslide caused by the peat slippage circulated on social media, showing trees and the ground beneath being sent coursing downhill.