A 25km stretch of the River Great Ouse, which runs through Buckingham, has been polluted by a chemical spill, killing thousands of fish as well as invertebrates and plant life.
Last weekend, residents in Buckingham began to report that the river had turned into a ‘bubble bath’ and had a strange chemical smell.
The Environment Agency said: “More than 2,000 dead fish have been reported.
“Due to the nature of the pollution, understood to include detergent, there is no action we can take to remove or stop it.
“However, as it travels further downstream it should become more dilute.”
The problem is believed to have originated from a fire at an industrial unit on Borough Road in Brackley on the evening of Tuesday 26 June, raising questions as to how the contaminant entered the river.
Buckingham town councillor Robin Stuchbury said: “The river was pristine clean – one incidence of pollution may have set us back 20 years,” adding “in this day and age we shouldn’t be using the river as a sewer.”
The River Great Ouse is 230km in length and is one of the longest in Britain.
The area affected by the pollution runs from Brackley to Milton Keynes.
Barry Smith, chairman of the Buckingham Angling Club, posted on Facebook: “The pollution has devastated the river environment and it will take a long time to recover.
“The pollution continues downstream, destroying the habitat and ruining fishing the club has enjoyed for 100 years.”
The Environment Agency said: “It is simply not possible to say exactly how and when the river will recover.
“Different species recover at different rates.
“Some are likely to return relatively quickly whilst it may take years for other species to be back to recent levels.
“As a precaution we recommend that people stay out of the River Ouse and keep pets and livestock away from the river.”
If members of the public see any large areas of foam or smell anything unusual in the river they are advised to contact the Environment Agency emergency hotline number: 0800 80 70 60.