Chicken slaughterhouse pollutes Icelandic salmon river

An accident occurred this week which caused the release of waste from a chicken abattoir to flow into a South Iceland river.

The pollution incident occurred on Thursday at the chicken slaughterhouse near the village of Hella. Waste from the plant flowed into the Ytri-Ranga river. The production manager at the abattoir says a mistake caused the accident.

Leisure anglers say the river has become unfit for fishing and call the incident an outrage.

It was around 16.00 on Thursday that a nearly 20-strong group of foreign anglers were fishing the river near Hella and quickly began to notice that slaughter waste from nearby Reykjagardur was flooding into the river, RUV reported.

“One saw chicken fat, chicken innards, and even toilet paper floating here down the river. A foreigner caught a beautiful salmon shortly afterwards and, as is common knowledge, the tradition is to bite off the dorsal fin [after killing the fish]. But he didn’t want to do that [because of the pollution],” fishing guide Gudmundur Atli Asgeirsson told RUV.

Asgeirsson told the broadcaster that Thursday’s incident was not the first of its kind — in fact it has often happened before; including on Wednesday, he said.

“This is of course a complete scandal, the local council is raking in money from this river and to treat this pearl of nature and this good salmon river in this way is just scandalous,” Asgeirsson says.

Sigurdur Arni Geirsson, production manager at Reykjagardur, says that what happened was that a contractor arrived to empty the fat trap. “And he got into a spot of trouble, and needed to spray more water into the trap to loosen up more fat. At the same time, the slaughterhouse was being deep-cleaned and it seems that that meant too much water was being put through the trap in a short time, which seems to have caused it to overflow into the rainwater gully,” Geirsson explained.

He believes that their primary responsibility was to empty the fat trap and that the contractor must take some responsibility for what happened. It needs further investigation, he said; adding that such an incident has not happened before, to the best of his knowledge.

Elsa Ingjaldsdottir, head of the South Iceland health protection department, said in an interview that she had not heard about the incident; but that it will now be investigated fully following the information provided by RUV News.