Environment minister Richard Benyon, who is responsible for safe water systems, is asking Defra to consider banning householders from buying a deadly pesticide that caused last month’s pollution on the River Kennet.
Scientists still investigating the incident believe that someone may have poured only two teaspoons of the poison down a kitchen sink but it was enough to wipe out all the river life along a ten-mile stretch of the Kennet.
It killed all the freshwater shrimp, caddis fly and mayfly, leaving trout and other fish with nothing to feed on and in turn hitting predators up the food chain such as otters, kingfishers and herons.
The pesticide, which entered the Kennet at Marlborough via a sewage pumping station and affected a 10-mile stretch of the river as far downstream as Hungerford in Berkshire.
It initially resulted in a public health warning for parents to ensure that their children stopped splashing about in the river and they people ought not to eat the trout caught in the famed chalk stream.
Tory MP Mr has now ordered his staff at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to investigate how the pesticide, chlorpyrifos, can be banned from general domestic use.
Mr Benyon, who owns a country estate flanking the Kennet further downstream near Reading, was alarmed to find “how easy” it was to buy the pesticide online.
“I have asked Defra to find out why this chemical is so readily available and to suggest what restrictions we should be imposing,” he said.
“I’m firmly on the side of those who want to make sure this never happens again. Something as toxic as this should only be available to people with the qualifications to use it safely.
It killed all the freshwater shrimp, pictured, caddis fly and mayfly along a ten-mile stretch of the Kennet in Wiltshire, leaving fish with nothing to feed on.
“I’ve asked Defra’s chemical regulations directorate to provide me with advice and I will act upon it. We want to make sure in the medium to the long term that we are protecting rivers like this from pollution incidents, whether they come from agricultural use or personal use. Somebody could have just been cleaning out their garden, trying to clean algae out of their fishpond. We don’t know.
“Whether we get to prosecutions or not, I don’t know. The important thing is that we look at every aspect of this, making sure that the availability of this chemical is investigated.”
Chlorpyrifos is regularly used on lawns and golf courses and to tackle insects on crops and some soft fruits.
It was banned in Singapore in 2009 for use in termite control in soil and the US phased out chlorpyrifos for use in buildings and on construction sites from 2001 due to public health and environmental concerns.