THE discovery of hundreds of dead fish has prompted an investigation into a possible pollution incident.

The Environment Agency said a 14km stretch of Aldbrough Beck, at Aldbrough St John, near Darlington, was affected.

The waterway is a tributary of the River Tees.

A spokesman for the agency said: "We received reports on Sunday of dead fish in Aldbrough Beck.

"Environment Agency officers investigated and found that 14km of the river were affected.

"Several hundred fish, mainly trout and bullheads, have died. Water samples have been taken and an investigation is ongoing."

Thomas Fenwick, a parish councillor in Aldbrough St John, said the incident was discussed at a meeting of the authority on Tuesday night.

He added: "I haven't seen them myself but apparently dead fish have been reported since Monday morning.

"There's about 30 to 40 that have been found in the village. I don't know how far upstream the problem goes."

The investigation comes about a year after hundreds of fish died in a similar incident.

In June last year, a 10km stretch of the waterway was devastated by a pollution spill.

The incident was described at the time as the most serious of its kind by the Environment Agency and experts warned that it could take several years for fish stocks in the beck to recover from the damage caused by the incident.

The Environment Agency has warned that anyone found to have been dumping waste into the watercourse will be prosecuted.

Anyone with information about the spill is urged to call the incident hotline on 0800-807060.