Residents are outraged after oil has been left spilling unchecked into a Yorkshire village beck for more than half a year.

The river was once packed with children from Elvington, near York, playing in the water but now locals worry that it is 'unsafe'.

The oil in the river has created a 'stench' which can be smelt from one side of the village to the other.

It runs past Elvington Primary School, through the village into the Lower Derwent Valley Site of Special Scientific Interest which houses 40,000 birds in winter.

An investigation launched by the Environment Agency has identified the source of the oil.

It is believed that it is heating oil seeping into the water from an industrial estate upstream.

The Northern Echo: Oil seen on the surface of the River Derwent travelling through Elvington

Christian Vassie, councillor for the area, said: "I'm really concerned about it for a number of reasons. 

"It has been happening for so many months, residents say they have smelt it since December.

"Some have been describing how on bad days they can smell it all over the village.

"I have been down repeatedly over the last six months and seen the oil on the water.

"I worry about it because it goes right through the village and it's an open beck.

"Historically children have played football on the green and often retrieved the ball from the beck. That's now a problem."

Mr Vassie emphasised that he was particularly worried about the 'biodiversity of the river Derwent'.

He added: "We have an internationally significant nature reserve just downstream.

"We have a duty to look after the environment, it's not just a little beck it's a habitat.

"I have asked the Environment Agency what type of oil it is and they said is was heating oil.

"They think it is coming from the nearby industrial estate.

"They have been reluctant to say who or what company it is they have decided is responsible.

"They think they have identified the individual or business. 

"There is an ongoing problem with sewage discharge across the county.

"I worry about the resources of the EA. Given the scale of the challenge they face you can see why spilling into a beck seems low priority.

"Residents are telling me that it is worse than ever."

Lloraine Frankland has lived in the village for years near the primary school and she worries what impact it has on the children breathing it in.

She said: "It started at Christmas. When it's wet that's when the smell is worst.

"We had a long dry spell recently so we hoped something had finally been done.

"It's come back worse than ever, we've kept the windows of our house shut even though it's really hot because the smell is so bad.

"On the worst days you can almost taste it in the air. 

"I worry what impact it is having on the children at the school and the wildlife downstream."

Robert Mallinson, who works at The Grey Horse village pub, described how many customers were talking about the issue.

He said: "Where we are opposite the village green we can see the kids playing.

"They are constantly losing their football in the beck and having to get in to fetch it out.

"Obviously with the weather at the moment they like to play about in the water too.

"We have outside seating out there too. It's a lovely family area so it is a concern hearing the speculation about what it is.

"There was a scout group on the green the other week doing litterpicking and they mentioned the smell coming from the beck."

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An Environment Agency spokesperson explained that the issue is still being investigated.

They said: "We are investigating reports of oil pollution in the River Derwent in Elvington and would like to thank local residents who have been in contact with us about the issue.

"Our officers have traced the source of pollution to an underground pipe and we are working to put a stop to any further oil entering the water alongside our on-going investigation."