De-icer spraying on aircraft


East Midlands Airport face criminal charges for River Trent pollution

3rd January 2024

Multiple criminal charges are being brought against East Midlands Airport Ltd by the Environment Agency for pollution entering the river system surrounding the company’s international airport near Castle Donington.  The prosecution follows a sustained campaign by the Derby Railway Angling Club, who have been working with Fish Legal to highlight chronic pollution of the Diseworth Brook and River Trent linked to discharges of de-icer used on aircraft and runways at the site.

East Midlands Airport Ltd is legally required to comply with an environmental permit issued by the Environment Agency for discharges of contaminated drainage water and provide data to the regulator to assess the impact of pollution coming from the airport on river water quality.

The charges being brought against East Midlands Airport Ltd, disclosed to Fish Legal by the Environment Agency following a first hearing at Derby Magistrates Court, relate to permit breaches and discharges of contaminated site drainage that took place in 2021 and 2022.

Each winter, members of the Derby Railway Angling Club have witnessed and reported fungus that thrives in low oxygen conditions covering the riverbed downstream of East Midlands Airport’s discharge point. 

The angling club, working with Fish Legal, have been seeking revisions to the permit held by East Midlands Airport to better control emissions of polluting de-icers into nearby rivers and for investment to raise standards of treatment of contaminated water from the site in line with other airports.

Geoff Hardy, Solicitor at Fish Legal, said:  “We welcome this action by the Environment Agency, which send a strong message to the owners of East Midlands Airport that they can’t continue to run the operation of this profitable and expanding airport at the cost of the health of local rivers and wildlife.  We are also heartened to see that in this case, the regulator has investigated the chronic pollution taking place and has taken tough enforcement action.”

He added: “We will be keeping an eye on the progress of this prosecution which follows sustained pressure from our member and Fish Legal.  It doesn’t rule out the angling club taking its own legal action against East Midlands Airport Ltd in the event that the airport fails to clean up its act.”

Gary Cyster of Derby Railway Angling Club said: “I’m sure many people wouldn’t associate an airport with river pollution.  But I have seen firsthand, over a long period, how a failure to properly treat water contaminated with chemicals sprayed on planes and runways in cold weather can seriously damage the ecology of local streams and rivers.

He added: “It’s been a very long time coming, but hopefully this criminal prosecution will force the owners of East Midlands Airport Ltd to start taking their responsibilities to the environment and the local community seriously.”

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