Tyne river charity benefits from £55,000 Costain donation following A19 upgrade pollution incident

Costain is to donate £55,000 to the Tyne Rivers Trust environmental charity following an investigation into a pollution incident triggered by the contractor during its work to upgrade the A19 Testo’s roundabout.

Costain completed the £130M upgrade, which involved building a new bridge over the A19 Testo’s roundabout with new slip roads onto the A184, for National Highways in July 2021. However, an investigation launched by the Environment Agency nine months after Costain was awarded the work in March 2019 revealed that site operations had polluted the River Don.

An Environment Agency employee who was working near the A19 site reported a plume of sediment in the river on 6 December 2019. An investigation found that Costain had breached its environmental permit for the A19 project when contaminated water was washed down highway drains and into the river.

The investigation revealed that, following a dry spell of weather, Costain 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.

According to the Environment Agency, the silt content in the water was “vastly in excess” of the permitted limit and caused discolouration of the river over a 500m stretch.

Working with the Environment Agency to improve site practices following the incident, Costain introduced a new monitoring and maintenance regime, as well as training for site staff. The Environment Agency has confirmed that no further incidents occurred during the rest of the project and there was no long term ecological impact on the river.

Following the investigation and improvement in site operations, Costain submitted an Enforcement Undertaking to the Environment Agency. The 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.

The Environment Agency confirmed yesterday that Costain’s Enforcement Undertaking had been accepted with the donation set to benefit the Tyne Rivers Trust, which will use the funding to improve water quality in the River Don catchment.

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.”

Costain has been contacted for comment but has yet to respond.

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