After 2 winters Southend Airport has only now applied for a permit to discharge de-icer into local brook

The local paper has revealed that Southend Airport has been discharging de-icer into Prittle Brook for more than 2 winters.  The airport’s owner, the Stobart Group, has only now applied for a permit from the Environment Agency to discharge up to 79,188 gallons (360 cubic metres) of “trade effluent consisting of deicer”into the waterway every day.  Stobart said the application is for surface water running off in the winter. The local Castle Point Wildlife Group are concerned that even if diluted, the de-icer may harm the natural environment.  John Fuller, coordinator of the South East Essex Friends of the Earth, said: “We are very concerned about this in case it has implications on human health. We understand the EA deems it within tolerable limits….. The fact that it has been going on for 2 years shows the controls on the airport are woefully inadequate.”  Local fishermen are concerned about the potential pollution of their catches, which are not tested for this sort of pollution.  Stobart claim the Environment Agency has monitored the situation and found “little or no impact on water courses and wildlife.”  The EA will take comments on this application till 22nd May.



Airport washing de-icer into brook

SOUTHEND Airport has been discharging de-icer into Prittle Brook for more than two years, the Echo can reveal.

The airport’s owner, the Stobart Group, has applied for a permit from the Environment Agency to discharge up to 79,188 gallons (360 cubic metres) of “trade effluent consisting of deicer” into the waterway every day.

The company, which took over the airport in 2008, told the Echo the application is for surface water running off in the winter, but wildlife groups are outraged the practice has been going on.

“The fact that it has been going on for two years shows the controls on the airport are woefully inadequate.”

Paul Gilson, chairman of Leigh and Southend Fishermen’s Association, which owns a stretch of shellfish beds in the River Roach, said shellfish health checks only detected e-coli, so other pollutants could be missed.

He said: “I’ve seen the application and I’m extremely concerned about it. This is serious.

“Some pollutants are not too bad, but when you are talking about the sheer volume they want permission for, and that traffic at the airport is only increasing, it could do a lot of harm.”

Prittle Brook runs through West Wood inHadleigh, Belfairs Park in Leigh, and Priory Park in Southend, past the airport and into the River Roach at Purdeys Way, Rochford.

Neal Warren, chairman of the Castle Point Wildlife Group, which manages West Wood, said: “They will dilute it, I’m sure, but whatever you do it is going to harm the natural environment.

“I’m in shock to be honest that the Environment Agency would even contemplate allowing that volume to be put in the watercourse.

“There is so much being done to clean the brook and improve the water quality. It just seems like we are taking a big step back.”

The airport’s owners claim the Environment Agency has monitored the situation and found little impact on the area.

A spokeswoman from the airport said: “This permit deals with the run-off of surface water from the runway, which during the winter months may contain traces of de-icing chemicals used on the runway to maintain safe operations.

“The permit allows a cumulative 360 cubic metres per day to be run off into Prittle Brook and Eastwood Brook.

“As part of an agreed trial with the Environment Agency, Southend Airport has been carrying out these procedures for the past two winters.

“Extensive ecological monitoring has been taking place during this period, and the Environment Agency reports little or no impact on water courses and wildlife.”




A resident commented:

The airport appears to have been discharging effluent into the local streams without consent, and this seems to follow the application for a licence from the Environment Agency

I find it hard to believe that the airport does not have balancing ponds to dilute and even-out the discharges when it needs to carry out winter de-icing   – but I can’t see anything like a balancing pond on aerial photos of the airport.

There was a recent excellent write-up of Gatwick surface-water management

The Rochford council site hosts a submission to the Joint Area Action Plan process for Southend that claims that ponds were originally intended but have never been built.   It also includes copies of Environment Agency letters seeking more information from the airport on  the biological loadings and impacts on the watercourses and clarification on the chemicals used (it mentions only potassium acetate , but wouldn’t glycol be needed for plane deicing too ?).

Anyone else think that this is a cowboy operation ?

Another resident commented:
According to Wikipedia, de-icers contain among other friendly chemicals:
The main component of deicing fluid is usually propylene glycol or ethylene glycol. Other ingredients vary depending on the manufacturer, but the exact composition of a particular brand of fluid is generally held as confidential proprietary information.
Based on chemical analysis, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has identified five main classes of additives widely used among manufacturers:[1]
  1. Benzotriazole and methyl-substituted benzotriazole, used as corrosion inhibitor/flame retardants to reduce flammability resulting from the corrosion of metal components carrying a direct current.
  2. Alkylphenol and alkylphenol ethoxylates, nonionic surfactants used to reducesurface tension.
  3. Triethanolamine, used as a pH buffer.
  4. High molecular weight, nonlinear polymers, used to increase viscoelasticity.
  5. Colored dyes, such as azoxanthenetriphenyl methane, and anthroquinone, used to aid in identification.
Into the local water-courses without treatment?


SS26YF  Environmental Permit application Advertisement

From the Environment Agency 

Updated 22nd April 2014

The Environment Agency has received a new bespoke application for an environmental permit under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010 from London Southend Airport Company Limited.

  • Application number: EPR/HB3790ND/A001
  • Regulated facility type: None
  • Regulated facility location: London Southend Airport at Southend, Essex, SS2 6YF.
  • NGR discharge point: TQ 86238 89024, TQ 86863 89849, TQ 87504 89849 and TQ 87598 89254
  • Receiving environment: Prittle Brook and Eastwood Brook leading to the River Roach
  • Effluent type: Trade effluent consisting of de-icer
  • Volume: 360 cubic metres per day

1.View the application

This information is held in registers at the following location:

Environment Agency
Public Register
Kingfisher House
Goldhay Way
Orton Goldhay

You can look at the register 9.30am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday. Please phone the Environment Agency’s National Customer Contact Centre on 03708 506 506 to arrange an appointment. You may get a copy of documents on the register. The Environment Agency may charge to cover copying costs.

2.Comment on the application

If you have any comments on the application send these by 20 May 2014 by email to:

Or write to:

Permitting and Support Centre
Water Quality Team
Quadrant 2
99 Parkway Avenue
S9 4WF

Normally the Environment Agency must put any comments they receive on the public register. Tell the Environment Agency if you don’t want your comments to be public. The Environment Agency must decide whether to grant or refuse the application. If they grant it, they must decide what conditions to include in the permit.



In Rochford Council planning applications, there is an August 2012 consultation about a development to be carried out under general permitted development:


“A consultation has been received in relation to proposed development at London Southend Airport  consisting of construction of a water-storage treatment pond designed to hold 12,000 cubic metres of water together with associated pipework, pumping stations, chambers and control systems.

The proposed works are required in order to ensure chemicals used in de-icing of the runway, taxiways and apron areas of the airport to remove snow, frost and ice do not enter local watercourses before being appropriately treated to prevent environmental damage.
The applicant has explained that the pond would be lined with an impermeable membrane and netted to prevent attraction of birds. 

The contaminated water resulting from de-icing works would be treated and then discharged to  Eastwood Brook……

The proposal would also be carried out by London Southend Airport as a relevant airport operator or its agent of development and the proposed works would be required in connection with the provision of services at a relevant airport; the works are required in order to ensure chemicals used in de-icing of the runway and apron areas of the airport to remove snow, frost and ice do not enter local watercourses before being appropriately treated to prevent environmental damage…”

There are a couple of associated location plans which identify the area for the lagoon and also show catchment areas for different areas of the runway/taxiway. There was also a mention of aircraft de-icing on stands with drainage to underground tanks before disposal off-site. But whether this is in place currently or not is unclear (part of the text notes on the plan is obscured). So it may be that glycol is being dealt with properly and only the runway de-icing  chemicals are running into brooks.

Still the google images do not show any sign of the lagoon (and the bird nets) in the indicated position.