Winvic has been hit with a £160,000 fine and ordered to pay £25,000 in costs for polluting a brook in the East Midlands.
The contractor worked on the £67m East Midlands Gateway, where it built a strategic rail freight interchange that included a rail interchange hub and 10 logistics plots for the likes of Amazon and Games Workshop.
Nottingham Magistrates Court heard earlier this week that Winvic had polluted the local Hemington Brook with clay solids while it was working on the site in September 2019.
The Environment Agency (EA), which brought the case, said a biological survey found the discharge from the site had caused “gross and chronic” pollution that had affected invertebrates living nearby. The EA said it received a tip-off from a member of the public after the brook started “running red with silt pollution”.
Winvic reported that a drain-blocker had failed, which allowed the contaminated contents of two ponds to drain and discharge into the brook. But the EA attended the site a second time and found that the discharge had not been stopped.
Analysis found the level of suspended solids was between 1,200 and 1,400 milligrams per litre downstream. In comparison, the average in 2019/20 was 50 milligrams with a maximum of 240 milligrams.
High levels of suspended solids in water can inhibit plant photosynthesis and clog or irritate fish gills, while also threatening to smother fish-spawning areas and invertebrate habitats.
The court accepted the offence was partly due to “unprecedented rainfall” in the area. However, Northampton-based Winvic pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 38 (1) (a) and Regulation 12 (1) (b) of the Environmental Permitting (England & Wales) Regulations 2016 by causing pollution and was fined £160,000. The contractor was also ordered to pay prosecution costs of £25,577.79.
Ian Firkins, EA senior environment manager for the East Midlands, welcomed the sentence, adding that it should “act as a deterrent” to other companies that breach environmental legislation.
“As a regulator, the Environment Agency will not hesitate to pursue companies that fail to meet its obligations to the environment,” Firkins said. “The conditions of an environmental permit are designed to protect people and the environment.”
Construction News approached Winvic for comment.