You are currently viewing Activists on trial for preventing HS2 from poisoning London’s drinking water

Activists on trial for preventing HS2 from poisoning London’s drinking water

On Monday 21st February 2022 at 10 am, two activists are due to appear at Uxbridge Magistrates Court charged with criminal damage and aggravated trespass. This follows a protest in February 2020 when the two activists, including the partially sighted Paralympic gold medallist James Brown, allegedly climbed onto HS2’s 100ft drilling rig in the Colne Valley, West London.

That protest was to prevent HS2 from pile driving into and contaminating a chalk aquifer that supplies drinking water for 3.2million Londoners. The protesters also sought to raise awareness of this issue.

Since the protest, HS2 has released a heavily redacted environmental assessment of their test boreholes, in which they admit landfill leachate has been found. This would suggest that HS2 is knowingly contaminating a water source, which is illegal.

The aquifer is close to a contaminated landfill site, New Years Green. HS2 plan to drill hundreds of piles across the valley for footings to support the weight of a 3.4km viaduct. HS2’s drilling risks causing leachate from the landfill site to enter and permanently contaminate the aquifer. To knowingly contaminate a water source is a crime.

In their redacted report HS2 admits, “there is evidence of significantly elevated ammoniacal nitrogen, which can be indicative of landfill leachate….several other substances were elevated including major ions and iron.” (Page 64, Piling along the Colne Valley Viaduct using bentonite Groundwater Environment Assessment. Document no: 1MC05-ALJ-EV-REP-CS01_CL01-000079. 9th December 2020)

The aquifer is classed as an “inner groundwater source protection zone” (SPZ1). Under UK law, this area must be protected from pollution, enforceable by the Environment Agency.

Sarah Green from Hillingdon Green Party has previously successfully taken HS2 to an Information Rights Tribunal ( concerning HS2’s refusal to release their water risk assessments for their load test piling in the Colne Valley.

Sarah pointed out, “You cannot do anything to an inner groundwater source protection zone which would require the water to undergo further treatment before being safe to drink. If drilling continues, with pollution already leaking from the toxic landfill site, it is unlikely that the clean public water supply will survive.

The public have the right to know what’s happening to our water. Water is life. HS2 should be in the dock, not peaceful protesters. The wrong people are on trial.”

HS2 have heavily publicised their building of “Britain’s longest railway bridge” in the Colne Valley. However, they have been less forthcoming about the impact building that bridge will have on our clean water supply. The bridge is being built entirely in inner source protection zones for public drinking water. But instead of clarity, HS2 have even gone to court to try to avoid publication of their environmental assessments.

There are concerns – highlighted by HS2’s continuing refusal to release unredacted reports on pollution to our water supply – that HS2’s work is not being correctly recorded or assessed by the Environment Agency. One campaigner suggested that this was another example of “HS2 marking their own homework.”

Currently, the Blackford pumping station, in the centre of HS2’s proposed Colne Valley viaduct, has stopped pumping water. Two other nearby pumping stations have had extensive treatment works added. Affinity Water, which draws 60% of its water from the aquifer, has been indemnified by the Department for Transport. All of which suggests that HS2’s drilling is a very serious risk to London’s clean drinking water, which would be a criminal act.

Previously, the aquifer provided naturally purified water, which had been filtered through rock for centuries. The area was an exporter of water. However, it is now an importer of water. 10million litres per day of water is now being supplied to the area from Perivale in west London. A new pipeline is being constructed to supply an additional 10million litres per day from Cockfosters in north London. Together, this would approximately equate to the amount of water that would previously have been supplied from the Blackford pumping station.

When HS2’s actions are reviewed, it does suggest that HS2 know their drilling will (and already is) polluting an aquifer which supplies 22% of London’s drinking water. This would be a criminal act.

James Brown, who took part in this protest despite being registered blind, said, “We took the action to bring public attention to yet another crime being committed by HS2. Our water supply is vitally important and is at risk, particularly in the south-east. HS2 are contaminating a water source which supplies clean water for 3.2 million people. It is a story which needs to be reported on and I’m satisfied that the actions I took helped to raise awareness.

‘Jimmy’, who is also in court for the February 2020 incident, explained his actions, “I’ve witnessed the damage HS2 has done, not just to the wildlife, but also the harm it has caused to communities, families and individuals along the line. HS2 are playing fast and loose with the long-term safety of London’s clean water supply. It is dangerous, criminal, and needs to be addressed publicly.”

Adam, a spokesperson for HS2 Rebellion, said, “This is a scandal and a crime. Were it not for the determined efforts of peaceful protesters and concerned locals, HS2’s actions would not have been brought to the public’s attention.”

Diagram below showing proximity of known pollution along this section of HS2 route, taken from Page 64 of HS2’s “Piling along the Colne Valley Viaduct using bentonite Groundwater Environment Assessment. Document no: 1MC05-ALJ-EV-REP-CS01_CL01-000079. 9th December 2020”:

Photos, videos, and further reading:

Leave a Reply