The Environment Agency has successfully prosecuted a construction company for polluting a local brook whilst engaged as contractors at the East Midlands Gateway development site.
At Nottingham Magistrates’ Court on 1 March 2023, Winvic Construction Limited, of Tenter Road, Moulton Park, Northampton, admitted causing pollution and was fined £160,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £25,577.79.
The court was told that the company were contractors at the site near Kegworth when Hemington Brook became highly turbid and discoloured with clay solids.
A biological survey revealed that the discharge of contaminated runoff from the site had caused “gross and chronic” pollution adversely affecting invertebrates.
A member of the public alerted the Environment Agency when the brook started “running red with silt pollution” on or before 27 September 2019.
The source was traced to an outfall near the development site which was the responsibility of the company.
Staff told officers from the Environment Agency that a drain blocker had failed. This had allowed the contaminated contents of two ponds to drain and discharge into the brook via a flood attenuation basin.
Officers from the Environment Agency attended the site again on September 30 2019, and found that the discharge had not been stopped.
Analysis was carried out revealing that the level of suspended solids in Hemington Brook had measured between 1200 – 1400 mg/l downstream.
By comparison, historical sampling data from 2019/20 indicated an average level of 50 mg/l of suspended solids with a maximum of 240 mg/l.
High levels of suspended solids in water inhibit plant photosynthesis and lower oxygen levels.
Solids can clog and irritate fish gills, further increasing stress. They can also smother fish spawning areas and invertebrate habitats.
The Court accepted that the offence was due in part to unprecedented rainfall in the local area.
Ian Firkins, senior environment manager for the Environment Agency’s East Midlands Area, said:
“We welcome this sentence which should act as a deterrent to other companies who breach environmental legislation.
“As a regulator, the Environment Agency will not hesitate to pursue companies that fail to meet its obligations to the environment.
“The conditions of an environmental permit are designed to protect people and the environment.
“Failure to comply with these legal requirements is a serious offence that can damage the environment and harm human health.
“If anyone has environmental concerns they should call our 24/7 hotline on 0800 80 70 60 or Crimestoppers anonymously and in confidence on 0800 555 111.”
Winvic Construction Limited, on or before 27 September 2019, caused or knowingly permitted a water discharge activity.
Namely the discharge or entry of suspended solids, being a polluting matter, into the Hemington Brook, except under and to the extent authorised by an environmental permit.
Contrary to Regulation 38 (1) (a) and Regulation 12 (1) (b) of the Environmental Permitting (England & Wales) Regulations 2016.