DOZENS of dead fish and birds have been found in a Wivenhoe waterway.

Furious residents say the ponds and lakes off Rectory Hill are being polluted, with the animals left with devastating injuries.

The issue has seen a bright orange gunge appear in the water, which runs into the River Colne.

Chris Coase, of Rectory Hill, said his lake has been affected since last March.

He said: “It looks like tomato soup.

“The colour comes from the amount of iron in the water. But it is what else is in there which is worrying.”

Mr Coase first noticed dead fish in the water last March, with some of them sent off for analysis.

It showed they had devastating internal injuries and eyes which appear frosted over.

Birds and trees have also died at the spot, and Mr Coase said there had been less than half the usual amount of birds hatching next to the lake, with many of those which remained unhatched being deformed.

Water and sediment samples have been taken by Mr Coase, a private agency and the Environment Agency.

They show high levels of arsenic, aluminium and manganese.

Latest figures show the levels of arsenic in Mr Coase’s lake are 1,320mg per kg. The upper limit of a safe reading would be 17mg per kg.

Mr Coase said: “They are ridiculously high levels. I’m not an expert but there is nothing living in the bottom of the lake.

“On hot days the sediment dries in places and it stinks of metal.”

Mr Coase believes a gravel pit in the area is the cause.

He said the Environment Agency relies on water samples rather than sediment tests.

Mr Coase said: “The water tests which have been carried out aren’t that bad. But the sediment tests are awful. If you get heavy rain it also washes it further down stream, which further dilutes it for a bit.

“It is also worrying as this all goes into the River Colne.”

The water from the lake goes into a pond in Littlefield, before passing through several other streams and out into the River Colne.

Residents are holding a meeting at 10am tomorrow to alert more people to the problem. They will meet at the pond in Littlefield.

David Henley, of Littlefield, said: “It’s criminal this is going on.

“All of the residents and local councillors are coming down on Saturday so Chris can show everybody what it is because people need to know this is happening.”

A spokesman for Tarmac, which runs the gravel site in nearby Alresford Road, said: “We are working with environmental consultants and the Environment Agency to understand the complex geology and water flow to determine the source of the issue.

“If investigations demonstrate a link to our site, we’ll take appropriate measures.”

A spokesman for the Environment Agency said some of dead fish have been sent for analysis.

He said there has been no clear evidence to link the fish deaths with the activities of nearby quarrying work.

It is continuing to liaise with the site owners and the lake owner.

The spokesman added; “Some tests have shown high levels of metals in groundwater from the quarrying site upstream of Mr Coase’s pond but the site has been operating since the Thirties so the provenance of any identified contaminant is not easy to identify.

“The soil in the Essex area also naturally contains high levels of iron.

“There was some evidence last year of a raise in level of ammonia in the water entering the lake. Sources were identified and stopped but fish have continued to die.

“There has been no obvious lowering of water quality in the River Colne and we are awaiting a further sampling report from the quarrying company.”