Pollution incident investigations

APEM has investigated about 80 pollution incidents since 2004, often with additional follow-up surveys to monitor recovery. We cover a variety of incident types, including wastewater treatment works spills, combined sewer overflow impacts, sediment runoff and chemical spills.

We also offer an independent evaluation of the scale and extent of pollution incidents for use by prosecution or defence in subsequent court cases. We have a number of call-out contracts with water companies, allowing our regional laboratories to respond immediately.

Short-term pollution response services

  • Checks for fish kills and distress, plus removal of dead fish. Fish carcass counting follows specific Environment Agency procedure, using trained staff.Dead fish in stream
  • Fish rescue if feasible.
  • We are licensed to dose with hydrogen peroxide in low oxygen and pollution emergencies.

    Dosing with hydrogen peroxide prior to Commonwealth Games

    Dosing with hydrogen peroxide

  • Design of an appropriate sampling regime for impact assessment and monitoring, including the selection of suitable controls and downstream monitoring to determine the extent of impact.
  • Full visual impact assessment at each sample site, with detailed records of habitat, conditions and evidence of pollution.
  • Collection of physicochemical parameters at sample locations – conductivity, temperature, oxygen concentration and ammonia concentrations.
  • Water sample collection for further detailed analysis if required. 
  • Macroinvertebrate sampling and impact assessment within 48 hours of cessation of discharge, following Environment Agency procedures.
  • Live-dead analysis of bankside invertebrate samples, following accepted protocols, to provide maximum information on the biological impacts of pollution incidents.

Long-term pollution response services

  • Monitoring to assess recovery or if issues are persisting. Ongoing and repeat monitoring to be based on the original sample design to allow accurate comparison of data.
  • Design of an assessment programme for historical pollution incidents, to determine whether impacts may be persisting.
  • Advice on mitigation and avoiding future incidents.
  • Expert witness service in prosecutions.
  • Pollution from outfall

Our capacity

APEM has extensive capacity to cope with pollution incident call-outs, including out-of-hours work. Our field team provides full support and we have many staff competent in bankside assessment and identification.

Our  laboratories around the UK include staff highly experienced in macroinvertebrate sample processing to species level. Pollution samples are prioritised and we have capacity for large numbers of samples – we aim to report within two weeks

Laboratory and consultancy staff have a wealth of experience in undertaking pollution surveys and in reporting the findings.

Our reports

All reports on pollution incidents are designed to be acceptable to regulatory authorities. Our reports have been used frequently in court cases, and staff have also stood as expert witnesses when an incident has been subject to a prosecution.

If you have any queries, please contact Lynne Speight, senior laboratory scientist.
Alternatively you can email us here. Or call 0161 442 8938.