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Charity donation after river contamination

17 August 2023

CONSTRUCTION COMPANY Costain Limited will donate £55,000 to Tyne Rivers Trust after polluting the River Don during a major upgrade to the A19 in South Tyneside.

An investigation by the Environment Agency found that the company had breached its environmental permit when contaminated water was washed down highway drains and into the River Don.

It submitted an Enforcement Undertaking to the Environment Agency, which has now been accepted.

An Enforcement Undertaking is a voluntary offer made by companies and individuals to make amends for their offending, and usually includes a donation to a wildlife charity to carry out environmental improvements in the local area.

Costain Limited had an environmental permit which allowed it to discharge water treated by a sediment treatment facility into the River Don during work to the A19 at Testos roundabout.

Plume of sediment seen in the river

On 6 December 2019, while works were being carried out, an Environment Agency officer in the area reported a plume of sediment in the river.

Following a dry spell of weather, Costain Limited had decided to jet wash and sweep the road surface to remove a build up of mud. However, the road sweeper was not powerful enough to suck up all of the dirty water and instead the contaminated water ran directly into highway drains, bypassing the company’s sediment treatment measures, and into the River Don.

The silt in the water was vastly in excess of what the permit allowed, and it caused discolouration for at least 500 metres.

After the incident the company introduced a new monitoring and maintenance regime as well as training for site staff, and no further incidents occurred. There was no long-term ecological impact on the river.

Environment Agency investigating officer Josh Laidler said, "Companies carrying out any major development work have a responsibility to ensure they abide by their permits to protect the local environment, and we will take action when pollution occurs.

"While we will always take forward prosecutions in the most serious cases, Enforcement Undertakings are an effective enforcement tool to allow companies to put things right and contribute to environmental improvements.

"They allow polluters to correct and restore the harm caused to the environment and prevent repeat incidents by improving their procedures, helping ensure future compliance with environmental requirements."

Tyne Rivers Trust will use the donation on projects that will improve water quality in the River Don catchment.

The Tyne Rivers Trust is a registered environmental charity dedicated to improving the River Tyne and its catchment through education, tackling pollution and practical conservation.