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A CHEMICAL firm is at the centre of a pollution probe after the death of eight swans at a Midland pool.

The birds, a protected species, have all died in the past three months at the small lake - along with seven coots, three ducks and two geese.

Now the Environment Agency has launched pollution tests at the pool which is used by chemical manufacturers Rhodia to dump waste by-products.

The last two dead swans to be discovered are also being sent for post mortem to see if they have been poisoned.

The swans died at the Rattle Chain Mere pool in Tividale, near Dudley.

The pond is owned by Rhodia, based in Oldbury, which has a licence to dump factory waste by-products into the water. It has launched its own investigation.

Friends of Swan Watch, a wildlife protection group, discovered the first two swans on January 21 and the last a week ago..

Group spokesman Ian Carroll, of West Bromwich, said: 'To lose one swan is sad but to find eight dead in just three months is a real tragedy.

'There is the possibility one of the birds died from a pellet gun wound but the remaining deaths are a mystery. The only link we can determine is that all of the birds died at the Rattle Chain Mere pool which is a favourite spot for wildlife.

'We need to find out if there is something in the water poisoning them.

'The company sent a couple of the dead swans away for post mortem but the findings were inconclusive.

'Now we plan to send the latest two dead birds away for independent post mortems to try to determine the cause of death.

'We also plan a further meeting with the Environment Agency and Rhodia later this week. We just hope no more fatalities occur before then.'

An Environment Agency spokesman said: 'We are aware of the deaths of a number of swans at this pool.

'Our officers have taken water samples and autopsies have been carried out on swans - but at this stage we are still unable to determine the cause of death. Our investigations are continuing.'

John Scott, operations director for Rhodia, said: 'We simply don't know what is killing these birds but they could just have died of natural causes.

'We have a waste licence to dump calcium phosphate - a waste product from our Oldbury factory - into the pool which has been used for years.

'But calcium phosphate is not harmful to wildlife. It is found in everyday products like toothpaste and animal feed.

'After the first swan deaths, we carried out post mortems but the results were inconclusive and there was not a precise cause of death.

'We genuinely do not believe the pool is killing these birds as we have also taken water samples which showed nothing.

'However, we will continue to co-operate with the Environment Agency and liaise with Friends of Swan Watch.'

WASTE... A tanker arrives at the Rhodia site


POLLUTION INVESTIGATION... the site where waste is pumped into the pool and (inset) two of the swans found dead at the lake. PICTURES Sam Bagnall
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Apr 29, 2001
Previous Article:Chemical leak shuts dock.

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