The HS2 railway could be putting drinking water at risk, but a court delay just worked in its favour

Sarah Green holding a banner which reads "HS2 is contaminating London's water"
John Shafthauer

The Stop HS2 campaigner Sarah Green was due in court on Monday 1 April. Although she faced charges of aggravated trespass, she believed the case would give her the opportunity to prove HS2 Ltd is acting illegally. This is important, as activists claim HS2 Ltd is at risk of contaminating drinking water. As the trial has now been delayed until 17 July, potentially dangerous work could go ahead unchallenged.

Stop HS2

Green is a campaigner with Stop HS2, which aims to stop the proposed ‘High Speed 2’ railway. On 11 December 2018, the group reported that Green and others ignored a court injunction to protest against work in Harefield, Middlesex. This work will see HS2 Ltd bore through a contaminated landfill site to access a chalk aquifer. As this aquifer provides drinking water to London, campaigners allege there’s a risk of contamination.

At the time, Stop HS2 campaign manager Joe Rukin said:

It is absolutely incomprehensible that HS2 Ltd can be so cavalier as to drill through known contaminants, which have already caused illegal levels of pollution and closed down one water supply, down into an aquifer which supplies drinking water for London, with absolutely no assessment of what might happen. This is not only dangerous, this is potentially a criminal level of incompetence and negligence.

Green welcomed the court proceedings, as the case hinged on HS2 Ltd’s actions being ‘legal’. According to the Water Frameworks Directive, a risk assessment should have been carried out by HS2 Ltd. The campaigners believe this hasn’t happened, and as Stop HS2 pointed out:

Green is charged with obstructing HS2 Ltd from going on with their legal activities, but she claims that the reverse is true and that she was actually preventing HS2 Ltd from undertaking illegal activities.

Delayed

Stop HS2 live-tweeted the events of 1 April:

Speaking after this, Green said:

having had the trial now put off… this means that the pollution could well have been caused by then… We have now got to look to see whether this can be taken forward to Europe… this is an illegal act by the UK government, and this is what we’ll be pursuing next.

Concern

A victory for Green wouldn’t have meant HS2 had to cease its work, but the attention the case brought might have done. As Stop HS2 pointed out, “a former water pumping station has had to be shut down due to the contamination associated with this site”. That full and proper precautions do not appear to have been taken should be of serious concern to everyone.

Featured image via Stop HS2 (used with permission)

Get involved

  • You can follow Stop HS2 on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Follow this link for information on donating towards Stop HS2 and Sarah Green’s legal proceedings.
  • If you’re worried this issue, or HS2 in general, may affect you, you can write to your MP.

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