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Why improvement works at Meltham Mills reservoir may have killed fish

Questions asked why fish were not removed before water levels were lowered

Angler Gary Turton with some of the fish found dead near Meltham Mills reservoir

The owner of a reservoir where hundreds of fish were killed says they must have died due to falling water levels as improvement works were carried out.

The Environment Agency (EA) has launched an investigation after the entire stock of about 200 fish at Meltham Mills reservoir were found floating in the water or lying on the banking.

Responding to “untrue accusations and assumptions” on social media, Dan Bamforth, managing director of Towndoor Ltd, which owns the reservoir, said his company and Windybank Fishing Club, the reservoir’s tenant, were “deeply saddened by the loss of the fish and what can only be described as an accident and unplanned event.”

He added: “Towndoor is doing everything in its power to assist with the EA enquiries and support its tenant, the Windybank Fishing Club, who own and are responsible for the fish.”

Meltham Mills reservoir

Mr Bamforth said the water levels at the reservoir had been reduced over a six to eight week period to carry out essential valve repair works on the tower as advised by the reservoir’s safety engineer who reports to the EA.

The valves, which control the flow of the water in an emergency should it be needed to stop the flow of the water or increase discharge, were non-operational and estimated to be over 50 years old.

“Due to the age of the reservoir and heavy silt build up over the last 100 years or so there were many unknown factors,” said Mr Bamforth. “The drawings held on file indicated that there should be approximately four feet of water below the bottom valve set, which the fishing club anticipated would be enough for the fish to survive in the short term while the safety remedial works on the valve sets were carried out.”

Mr Bamforth said the club monitored the water level and fish regularly as it was their stock and their decision about what to do with the fish during the works. He understood the club sought advice about the possibility of moving the fish but “it was not possible to progress this route.”

Angler Gary Turton with dead fish found at Meltham Mills reservoir

Mr Bamforth said: “Sadly, we assume that the water level dropped more quickly than the club anticipated and the silt build up was many times greater than expected. Once there was sign of the fish being in distress and in shallow water the valve sets were closed by Towndoor straight away. Sadly, it appears to have been too late.

“The EA visited the site on Tuesday to inspect and we await a report to confirm their findings in more detail.”

Mr Bamforth said Towndoor invested £750,000 in essential reservoir safety works in 2014 as instructed by the EA to create a new spillway to protect residents in the valley in the event of future floods and storms.

Towndoor continued to invest “a huge sum” in footpaths, tree works and benches to benefit local residents and walkers and “for no financial benefit whatsoever.”

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