A CONSERVATION group has apologised after its failure to empty a litter barrier on the River Darwen created a potential flood risk.

The Action Darwen Valley Group installed the litter trap on the river at Witton Park two years ago to collect surface waste.

But the group said a dispute with the contractor tasked with maintaining the trap meant it was not cleared for two months.

Harmful rubbish was then sent down stream after it overflowed.

The device floats on top of the water and must be emptied every fortnight to work.

Retired truck driver John McDermott, 66, from Rockcliffe Street, reported the problem.

He said: “I always say that the condition of the river is a sign of how clean the town is.

“If the water supply is being messed around with then that shows how neglected everywhere else has become.

“Just because people can’t see the barrier doesn’t mean that it’s not a problem.

“The rubbish is flowing down stream from Witton Park and it is very harmful for the ducks, moor hens and other birds.”

Blackburn with Darwen Council has contacted the Environment Agency twice in recent weeks about the issue.

The trap is the volunteer group’s responsibility, but the agency will now liaise with them to ensure a repeat does not occur.

Environment officer Simon Boocock said: “It’s really important that the litter trap is cleaned regularly as it helps keep the lower section of the River Darwen free of litter for people to enjoy.

“On a more serious note, any waterway that becomes blocked due to a build up of litter can present a flood risk, which could have an impact on local homes or businesses.

“The Environment Agency will be helping Action Darwen Valley Group to monitor the amount of litter in the trap.”

Freya Cheshire, 22, project co-ordinator for the Mersey Basin campaign that plans volunteer action, apologised for the lapse.

She said: “It has not been good enough and we would like to take this opportunity to apologise for what has happened.”