One of the family of swans caught up in the oil pollution. Photo: Athlone Town facebook

Council says it has treated all contaminated areas after oil pollution


Westmeath County Council has said it has now treated all contaminated areas identified on the Shannon and Al rivers.

This follows a significant oil pollution incident in the Shannon which is understood to have commenced over a week ago.

Over the last two days, technical staff from Westmeath County Council have been treating the oil contamination along the east and west banks of the Shannon just south of Athlone town with specialised biodegradable products suitable for such sensitive wildlife habitats.

The council said this evening (Thursday) that it had now treated all contaminated areas. It said it “continues to work in conjunction with Inland Fisheries Ireland, Waterways Ireland, National Parks & Wildlife Services, Roscommon County Council and other voluntary agencies in the clean-up effort.

“The situation will be closely monitored over the next number of days. Investigations into the source of the pollution remain ongoing.”

The council previously confirmed that oil had escaped from the River Al, a tributary of the Shannon, into the main river. The areas affected are south of the town bridge including the river and wildlife in The Big Meadow area.

A family of swans, who were covered in oil, were rescued and sent to an animal sanctuary in Kildare for specialised cleaning. There were also online photographs of water birds caught up in the oil spill.

One of the swans being cleaned in Kildare. Photo: Kildare Animal Foundation Wildlife Unit

The family of swans at the treatment centre in Kildare.

Oil retention barriers were placed on the River Al on Saturday, although there has been criticism that the action was too little too late.

Members of voluntary water-based and fishing groups have been highlighting the ongoing impact on animal and fish life, although Inland Fisheries initially said no dead fish had been found.

In a later press statement, Inland Fisheries clarified that there had been “no clear evidence of a significant fish kill” although it noted a number of photographs of a small number of dead fish on Facebook.

However it said as of Tuesday afternoon, its staff had not identified any dead fish directly caused by this event.

“Oil incidences are unusual in that the oil floats on the surface of the water and fish can avoid the effects of the pollutant provided they do not move through the surface film,” it added.

A gofund me page has been established to help meet the costs associated with the voluntary efforts to rescue wildlife.

To donate search Athlone Town's Oiled Wildlife on gofundme or visit here:

One volunteer says he has already counted four dead cormorants and four dead ducks following the spill.

There are now also fears that the contamination could spread to the Cross River in South Roscommon and a section of a group of some 50 adolescent swans in an area to the south of the river may also have been contaminated.