An urgent investigation has been launched amid concerns about a possible chemical spill in the River Spey with mounting numbers of dead fish.
It is estimated more than 50 fish have already been found dead in the water this week with fears the total could continue to rise in the coming days.
Meanwhile, there have also been reports of dogs and a child becoming unwell after swimming in the river in separate incidents.
The cause still remains unknown.
The River Spey fishery board has confirmed urgent investigations are taking place to determine the potential source of the suspected chemical leak.
However, Sepa says it has found no sign of recent pollution but has stressed it will continue to monitor the river.
‘Disturbing numbers of dead fish in Spey’
Sightings of dead salmon and sea trout being found in the river were first reported to the Spey Fishery Board on Monday.
The worrying findings have been reported at various points along the river stretching from Aviemore to Boat o’ Brig, slightly upstream of Fochabers.
Roger Knight, director of the Spey Fishery Board, said officials from Sepa and the Scottish Government’s Fish Health Inspectorate have been on the river this week taking water samples.
He added: “We don’t know what’s actually happened at the moment. A few dead fish would be fairly normal, maybe six to 12 at this time of year, but we have had some quite disturbing numbers.
“It’s likely to be well in excess of 50 by now, and it could go up to 100.
“We have been working closely with Sepa and passing updates to them to try and identify the source of any potential pollution.
“At the moment we can’t confirm if there’s even been some sort of spill incident.”
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Mr Knight explained that Sepa officials have been doing pH tests on the water to try and identify any unusual chemical that could be causing the deaths.
David Ogilvie, senior manager for environmental performance at Sepa, estimated the number of dead fish being found at between 20 to 30.
He said: “Sepa officers attended the river as concerns have been raised that the dead fish has been caused by a major pollution event.
“We took samples of the water and carried out a visual inspection looking for evidence of pollution including discolouration, sewage fungus, foaming and odour. We found no evidence of a recent pollution event.
“We will continue to monitor the river, follow up on any new reports or concerns and engage with the Spey Fishery Board and other relevant authorities to try and determine the cause of the reported fish mortality.”
Agencies urged to contain potential River Spey pollution
The Spey Fishery Board has already alerted Sepa and the Fish Health Inspectorate to the concerns reported by anglers on the river.
Moray Council has confirmed the water supplies of its schools and all of its other buildings are unaffected by the issue.
Both Moray MP Douglas Ross and Moray MSP Richard Lochhead have been pressing for urgent action to contain the situation.
Mr Ross said: “The seriousness of this cannot be understated and I am concerned by the apparent lack of immediate action by Sepa.
“As soon as I was informed of this I was in touch with Sepa through parliamentary contacts and I’m urging them to treat this with the urgency it requires and outline what action they took when they were first notified.”
Mr Lochhead said: “The Spey Fishery Board has been passing on reports to Sepa and the Fish Health Inspectorate and I would encourage anyone using the River Spey who encounters any dead fish or anything untoward to report this to Sepa.
“I’ve made urgent representations to Sepa and pressed them to ensure that they take swift action to look into these reports, confirm if pollution has occurred and that they get on top of the incident as soon as possible if pollution has impacted the River Spey.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Our Fish Health Inspectorate has responded to reports of moribund and dead fish in the River Spey and has collected samples which will be analysed in due course.
“We understand that Sepa is also investigating to determine if there is an environmental cause.”