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.

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 Environment Agency deems it within tolerable limits, but I think that will be little reassurance to the fishermen who harvest shellfish in the River Roach.

“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 in Hadleigh, 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.”