Polluters of chalk aquifer escape clean-up liability

Several dozen square kilometres of the chalk aquifer in Bedfordshire have been contaminated by chlorinated solvents. The affair has once again drawn attention to the legal obstacles facing the National Rivers Authority (NRA) in both preventing and rectifying groundwater contamination.

Pollution of the chalk aquifer in the Luton and Dunstable area first came to light in 1988, when the former Lee Valley Water Company announced that it had been forced to install air stripping equipment to remove chlorinated solvents from three of its supply boreholes (ENDS Report 161, pp 4-5). It has now transpired that the first evidence of solvent pollution was obtained in 1982.

The extent and probable sources of the contamination have

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