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Highways Agency in deep water over ponds

ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION groups are on a collision course with the Highways Agency over the maintenance of pollutioncontrolling balancing ponds alongside the environmentally sensitive Newbury bypass.

Newbury's Campaign of Businesses for Environmental Protection (CAMBUS) has described the Agency's policy of pond maintenance on an 'as needs' basis as impractical and called for a proper maintenance schedule to be put in place.

The call comes after the findings of a five year environmental assessment study, carried out by the University of Surrey on behalf of CAMBUS and the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust, were revealed last week.

Balancing ponds are designed to use a reed bed system to act as sediment and road surface runoff traps. However, the study found that the Newbury ponds were acting merely as a physical barrier.

They showed that while the eight ponds are effective in minimising pollution, build up of heavy metals - including lead, cadmium and zinc - is happening much faster than expected.

'The accumulation of polluted sediment is difficult to dispose of and a strategy for the disposal of this is not yet apparent, ' explained Surrey University's Dr Neil Ward.

The Highways Agency refuted the calls: 'We have a very firm professional plan, ' a spokesman said. 'Any maintenance contract has to be carried out on an as needs basis. You cannot spend tax-payers' money gratuitously.'

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