For over a decade the Derby Railway Angling Club have been submitting regular reports of pollution of the River Trent in Leicestershire to the Environment Agency. There has been strong evidence of aircraft de-icing chemicals finding their way into the river from nearby East Midlands Airport.
De-icing chemicals are used by airports throughout the year although in most cases there are systems in place to stop them running off into nearby waterways. These chemicals have the effect of reducing oxygen levels in the water and causing ecological damage. In the case of the River Trent, there has been excessive growth of a smothering fungus on the riverbed that thrives in such conditions, over 170-metres downstream of the airport discharge.
Despite reporting the pollution frequently, the angling club have been dissatisfied with the way the Environment Agency have treated the situation. While the Agency has publicly stated it will not attend low level (Category 3 & 4) pollution events, East Midlands Airport has an environmental permit and therefore any such reports must be investigated according to their own policies.
In 2018, the club requested Fish Legal make representations on their behalf with the Environment Agency, who were then reviewing the airport’s permit. Fish Legal found out that the agency had been aware of the pollution in the Trent since 2001 and in the Diseworth Brook possibly as far back as the 1990s. Despite this opportunity to improve the situation for the River Trent, the Agency decided to introduce a condition that limited the visual element of the pollution only.
In the four years since the review, both the River Trent and Diseworth Brook’s ecology has not improved. What is especially concerning for the angling club is that the airport now has plans to expand its operations significantly over the next ten years.