AN appeal for information has been issued after fish, ducks and a goose died after a diesel spillage at Bumble Hole Pool in Netherton.

The clean-up operation at Bumble Hole Nature Reserve saw a number of stricken ducks, swans, geese and other waterfowl rescued and the drama has so far cost the taxpayer more than £25,000, with investigations ongoing.

Dudley Council bosses say they are currently working with Severn Trent Water to try and locate the source of the spillage – and they have today (Tuesday January 12) appealed for anyone with information to come forward.

The maximum penalty for a water discharge activity offence is up to five years in prison and/or an unlimited fine – and chiefs have warned those responsible could be prosecuted if caught.

The substance, believed to be mainly red diesel with traces of cooking oil, left a red substance lying on the surface of the water when it came through the surface water drainage system and a culvert into the pool on December 29.

A number of small fish were found dead on the surface while wildlife including Canada geese, swans and ducks were coated with a dark substance and rescued and treated by the RSPCA but some were too badley affected to survive.

Contractors Veolia and Aqua Force worked on behalf of the council and with nature reserve volunteers to contain the diesel and begin to clear it.

Councillor Karen Shakespeare, Dudley's cabinet member for public realm, said: "I hope whoever has done this is able to sleep at night.

"Without the quick actions of volunteers at the nature reserve who reported it, we could have seen an even more serious impact on the nature reserve and our wonderful local wildlife who suffered greatly as a result of this despicable act.

"We are therefore very keen to find whoever is responsible for the spillage and I would urge anyone who may have any information to get in touch.

"It looks like it may have been a deliberate act, and if that is the case and we find whoever is responsible we will not hesitate to prosecute through the courts.

"People need to understand that the substances poured away without a thought for where it ends up can not only kill wildlife but they can also be prosecuted. Pleading ignorance will be no defence.

"This is a lesson to us all to be careful what we are tipping down our drains, as often surface water from homes and the highway feeds directly into natural pools used by our wildlife."

Animal rescuer RSPCA inspector Boris Lasserre said it had been the "worst" oil spill he'd ever seen and he added: "It has affected a lot of the birds very badly, with many of them collapsed and hypothermic.

"But with the help of a fantastic team of local volunteers, we initially managed to save around 25 birds which were sent for treatment at our Stapeley Grange specialist wildlife centre in Nantwich.

"The rescue operation is sadly ongoing as more and more birds are arriving at the lake and becoming affected by the pollution.

“It is a very difficult rescue operation as many of the birds are almost impossible to reach, not just in the water but stuck in wooded undergrowth around the lake.

"Sadly, a few of the birds haven’t  made it, but the volunteers have been brilliant - without them it would be so much worse.”

Twelve 12 geese, nine ducks, three coots and one swan were taken to the RSPCA’s Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre in Nantwich where the team washed the toxic oil off them.

Five of the ducks and one goose were tragically so badly affected they didn’t make it, but the remaining birds are now said to be in reasonable condition and being cared for until they are ready to be returned to the wild.

They will remain at Stapeley Grange until Bumble Hole has been cleaned up, as they cannot go back to a polluted lake.

If oil is not removed from waterbirds it reduces the natural waterproofing in their plumage, leaving them at risk of dying from hypothermia - so it is vital they are treated as soon as possible.

The RSPCA recommends anyone who sees pollution on water or land to call the Environment Agency 24-hour incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60.

Concerns for a wild animal that has come into contact with oil or other contaminants should be reported to the RSPCA’s emergency line on 0300 1234 999.