Northern Ireland

Blackstaff river: Belfast ink company says it's responsible for red river spill

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Media captionCCTV video footage of the river turning a bright shade of red

A Belfast packaging firm has said it is responsible for a pollution spill that caused the Blackstaff river to turn red.

The spill was reported to the Department of Environment on Wednesday.

In a statement to the BBC, director at Delta Packaging, Neal McCone, said it was a case of "human error".

"It is an accidental discharge of one of our inks which is a water-based, food-safe ink so it poses no threat to the environment.

He said it was a relatively small amount of ink, approximately 20 or 30 litres at the most.

'CCTV'

"It doesn't paint a very attractive picture but even now, it has been significantly diluted at this stage."

He said the product did not pose a risk to fish or plant life.

"It's a food-safe ink."

Inspectors have confirmed the presence of pollution, which caused the river to turn a shade of red.

Image copyright Twitter @aarongk
Image caption A close-up of the pollution, which was reported to the Department of Environment on Wednesday

CCTV video from a firm overlooking the river showed it getting increasingly polluted after 09:30 BST on Wednesday.

The river is still discoloured and the Department of Environment (DoE) and the NI Environment Agency (NIEA) are investigating.

The river runs through the city, much of it underground.

The pollution occurred on a section close to the M1 motorway.

Image copyright David McElvanna
Image caption CCTV footage shows the discoloration on the Blackstaff river

David McElvanna, who works nearby, sent CCTV footage of the spill to the BBC.

"We noticed the river turning red in work and were quite amazed by it.

"It's the brightest colour of red we've seen it, and it's definitely changed a few shades in its time, but this is the brightest."

"Our office manager tweeted the Environment Minister Mark H Durkan to tell him about it."

Image copyright Twitter: @aarongk
Image caption The Department of Environment has launched an investigation into what caused the pollution

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