FEARS for wildlife have been raised after “paint” was dumped in the River Crouch.

Wendy Dunmow is among residents who worry the oil-based substance, which sits in the stream opposite London Road, Wickford, has been making nearby wildlife ill.

She says she has seen four magpies die in the last few weeks, after being in the stream.

The 50-year-old from Wickford said: “A few weeks ago we had a baby magpie get quite poorly so we took it to the South Essex Wildlife Hospital.

“We then found another one in the stream which runs at the back of our garden and joins to the River Crouch.

“That Saturday a neighbour made us aware of what we thought was engine oil contamination, but we now think is black paint which was dumped there.

“Soon later we’ve had to pull another bird out the stream, which now has a film all over the top of it. It was caked in this black substance, so we called the Environment Agency.

“I did all I could to make everyone aware, just in case this is making animals sick. All in all four magpies have died, so I worry they could be getting ill after drinking out of this.

“There’s a lot of wildlife like foxes and badgers, so I hope this isn’t some sort of permanent contamination and that if it rains it won’t seep to the stream further down.”

Peter Steward from the River Crouch Conservation Trust, said: “I’ve been down there to investigate and you can see there’s paint which has been spilt into the ditch, which appears to have gone hard on the surface of the water. This runs for about 20 feet and the rest is clear.

“Although I do think it’s unlikely an animal would drink the water where it’s got paint in it and there are other bodies of water nearby they can drink from, it’s unacceptable and does sadden me when any substance pollutes a river.

“I have called the Environment Agency who are looking into it but can’t come out due to Covid-19, which is quite frustrating.”

An Environment Agency spokesman, said: “We are aware of this incident on a tributary of the River Crouch and are investigating it. If the public see any animals or fish in distress please report it to 0800 80 70 60.”