PEOPLE are being warned to stay away from stretch of a North-East beck after the water was contaminated with a toxic element.

A tributary of the Hartburn Beck near Eaglescliffe, Stockton, was sealed off after it was discovered to contain traces of chromium salts, according to the Environment Agency.

Stockton Borough Council is working alongside the Agency and Northumbrian Water to flush out the toxin and identify the cause of the problem, which could be from an historic source of the chemical in the ground.

The pollution was coming from a pipe which flows directly into the watercourse but workers have blocked of the source of discharge.

A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said: “We are working with Stockton Borough Council to investigate a pollution incident in a tributary of the Hartburn Beck near Eaglescliffe, Stockton. The water in the beck has been contaminated with chromium salts, which are toxic.

“The pollution has affected the stream just off Durham Lane. The contamination is coming from a pipe which flows directly into the watercourse. We have stopped the discharge to the stream and we are now working to identify the source of the pollution.

“We are also pumping out the contaminated water from the pipe and storing it securely prior to treatment and disposal. Northumbrian Water are helping us by flushing the beck with clean water. We will then conduct further sampling of the tributary and the Hartburn Beck.

“Stockton Borough Council has marked the affected area advising people to stay out of the water for safety reasons while the pollution is present.”

Councillor Maureen Rigg, who represents Eaglescliffe on the borough council, said: “As far as I’m aware the problem was brought under control quite quickly. Fortunately, the area is really muddy at the moment so the regular dog walkers are avoiding it and there is no livestock in the vicinity, which is a good thing.

“The council has been working closely with the Environment Agency to tackle the problem so people can be reassured that things are being dealt with safely. Although it is early days, it would appear the leak is from a historic source.”

Councillor David Rose, the council’s cabinet member for the environment, said: “The Environment Agency is leading on this incident and we are supporting them by erecting safety notices around the affected area to ensure people are aware they should keep away from the water. Our officers are also regularly inspecting the site.”

Anyone wanting further information can log on to the Environment Agency’s website or ring their contact centre on 03708-506506.

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