East Midlands Airport set to stand trial over River Trent pollution allegations

East Midlands Airport is facing a trial next year over allegations that it polluted the River Trent with a form of de-icer.

The prosecution is being brought by the Environment Agency after it was lobbied for several years by Fish Legal and the Derby Railway Angling Club who both said that the airport’s containment and treatment measures lag way behind the other venues in the Manchester Airports Group.

Fish Legal says the pollution in the River Trent is “chronic” and can be linked to discharges of de-icer used on aircraft and runways at the airport.

The charges being brought about East Midlands Airport relate to permit breaches and discharges of contaminated site drainage that took place in 2021 and 2022.

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.”

Defence counsel for East Midlands Airport, Jim Buchanan, pleaded not guilty to six charges. The airport’s managing director, Steve Griffiths, was in Derby Crown Court yesterday (15 February) to attend the hearing.

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.”

East Midlands Airport will stand trial of 19 May next year.