Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Look what happens when a quarry company is accused of polluting a couple's drinking water supply

Is it any wonder that local people are concerned about Aggregate Industries' plans to dig down to the water table - without leaving the typical 1m unquarried safeguard - when stories like this keep cropping up in the papers?
A family are at war with a quarrying company after they claimed the spring that supplies their home with clean water has become contaminated...
Mr Simpson said: 'Our home is in a beautiful location and we were really taken with the idea of the private spring water supply that dates all the way back to 1860.
 'The water was incredibly clear when it came from the taps. If you held it to the light you couldn't even see there was water in your glass, you had to shake it so the surface moved before you could see it.
'But in 2012 everything changed and it was clear the spring had been contaminated because the water was coming out brown and dirty.
'That coincided with the operators of the quarry near our home being served with statutory notices for quarrying outside their permitted area for Blaxter stone, which built much of Princes Street in Edinburgh. 
'The family's water became unusable for drinking or washing, leaving the Simpsons with no option to buy in their water in bottles. 
Mr Simpson said: 'It has had an unbelievable affect on our quality of life. 
Mr Simpson tried to get a supply for Northumbria Water, but the remote location of Blaxter House would have meant laying three miles of pipework at a cost of £500,000 - which Mr and Mrs Simpson would have had to pay for. 
He did everything he could to force the quarry operators to accept responsibility and return the spring to its original purity. 
Mr Simpson has emails, obtained from a Freedom of Information request, between staff at the Environment Agency. 
In the emails they discuss a visit to the site and say 'there is evidence of the operators working below the water table... Suggesting that the quarry company are excavating below groundwater. 
'The quarry company, Northumberland Stone Ltd, deny their work has affected the water quality and insist that rainfall has in fact caused the change...
Of course Northumberland Stone deny it; no company would want to stump up half a million pounds. Let’s check AI’s proposed s106 again for Straitgate Farm:

Does that inspire any confidence that AI wouldn't do exactly the same?

What did the Environment Agency have to say about the couple’s plight, or should we say blight?
The issues relate to planning conditions for the site, which is the responsibility of the local authority. We're working closely with the council and operator.
And the council?
The operator at Blaxter Quarry has made significant improvements to the on-site surface water management and the council are in positive dialogue with the operator to ensure the further improvements are delivered within the agreed timescales.
How helpful is all that? For a couple that have been without clean water for four years.

The story above, about two people, was in two national papers; here's the other.

At Straitgate, water supplies for 100 people, 3 farms and Grade I Cadhay would be in the hands of one digger driver. What could possibly go wrong? And - with an extensive catalogue of ignored warnings from local residents going back years - how many nationals would cover the story if it did?