Winvic fined £160,000 for polluting brook

Grant Prior 1 year ago
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Winvic has been fined £160,000 for polluting a brook while working on the East Midlands Gateway development site.

The contractor admitted causing pollution at Nottingham Magistrates’ Court yesterday following a prosecution by the Environment Agency.

Winvic was also 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 run off 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.

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.”

A Winvic spokesperson said: “We acknowledge and regret the discharge of surface water containing Mercia Mudstone held in the East Midlands Gateway (EMG) site’s ponds into Hemington Brook in August 2019. Whilst Industry defined and agreed best practice mitigation measures were in place at the site, a number of factors combined to leave Winvic – in the words of the Court, “between a rock and a hard place”.

“Due to the acknowledged heaviest period of rainfall in the area since records began, significant volumes of water built up in the approved siltation ponds on the site. This unforeseen event unfortunately attracted large numbers of migrating birds which presented a very real and potentially fatal risk of a bird-strike at the adjacent East Midlands Airport, conflicting with the requirement from the Environment Agency (EA) to hold and clean water prior to discharge.

“The decision was therefore taken to discharge water from the ponds in order to avoid the possibility of a more catastrophic event occurring – hence the “rock and a hard place” comment above. However, we accept that in doing so water containing suspended solids of Mercia Mudstone was discharged into Hemington Brook.

“Nonetheless, we have welcomed working with the EA throughout the process to ensure lessons could be learned and applied across the business. Winvic is committed to ‘Doing It Right’ and strives for continuous improvement in all areas. We continue to liaise with the EA on numerous projects to achieve successful outcomes.”

 

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