3 Previous Prosecutions by the Environment Agency

1. Farmer fined after stream is polluted with slurry

A North Devon farmer has been ordered to pay £6,177 in fines and costs following a slurry spill at a dairy farm near Bideford.

On February 23, 2009 Agency officers responded to a report of pollution in North Devon. They found a stream had been contaminated with farm waste and traced the pollution to the farm.

The farmer told the officers the slurry store had overtopped following a ‘surge’ of waste. When they inspected the store the officers noticed it had been overfilled and was still ‘full to the brim.’ The area around the outside of the store was covered in slurry and dirty water which ran down a bank in several places and into the stream.

When an officer inspected the Spekesmill Stream he noticed the water had turned green with foam and debris at the side of the stream. Sewage fungus was growing on the stream bed suggesting the pollution had taken place over a period of time.

On June 13, 2009 Agency officers were called to the farm again following a report of a further pollution incident on the Spekesmill stream. The pollution was traced to a pipe discharging silage liquor from the farm.

An ecological survey of local streams showed the pollution had caused a serious reduction in fish numbers and aquatic life. Water samples taken close to the farm contained high levels of ammonia that can be toxic to river life.

‘This pollution occurred because the defendant had too many cattle at his farm and did not have adequate storage for the slurry and manure produced by the animals. He failed to follow the Code of Good Agricultural Practice or act on advice we gave after a similar pollution incident’ said Phil Siddall for the Environment Agency.

The farmer was fined a total of £4,000 by Barnstaple magistrates after pleading guilty to two offences under Section 85 of the Water Resources Act 1991 including polluting a watercourse with slurry and silage effluent. The farm was also ordered to pay £2,177 costs. The case was heard on September 17 2009.

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2. Pig farmer fined after nature reserve is damaged by slurry

A Dorset farmer has been ordered to pay £8,292 in fines and costs for polluting an internationally important nature reserve with pig slurry

The case was brought by the Environment Agency.

Agency officers visited a farm at Maiden Newton near Dorchester on July 3, 2008 after receiving a report that slurry from a large pig rearing unit was draining from farmland onto a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

The farm, which has 750 breeding sows and 2,000 production pigs, is owned and operated a farmer. The unit is only a short distance (100 metres) from the Cerne and Sydling Downs, A Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Hog Cliff, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

The site operates under a Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) permit and is regulated by the Environment Agency.
On the day of their inspection Agency officers noticed that slurry was being pumped along a pipe from a central collection pit to a slurry store. An outlet on the pipe had been deliberately left open allowing slurry to discharge onto surrounding farmland.

Further checks revealed that the slurry had escaped from the farm and damaged the adjoining Hog Cliff the Cerne and Sydling Downs nature reserve. The site contains rare plants and butterflies only found on ancient chalk grassland. Farm waste such as slurry upsets the ecology of the site by adding excessive nutrients to the soil.

A Special Area of Conservation is one of the highest designations under the European Habitats Directive and is only awarded to our most valuable and important wildlife sites.

‘Farmers must ensure they comply with the terms and conditions of their permit to safeguard the environment, especially when they are operating close to an internationally important wildlife site,’ said Mark Collett for the Environment Agency.
Appearing before Weymouth magistrates, the farmer was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £3,292 costs after pleading guilty to failing to take appropriate measures to prevent pollution at his Farm, Maiden Newton on July 3, 2008. The farmer has agreed to pay for the cost of restoring the damaged nature reserve which is managed by Natural England. The cost is expected to be in the region of £22,000.

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3. Leaking oil polluted drain

Oil from a forklift repair site ended up in a drain at Donington near Spalding resulting in one swan having to be cleaned up and the death of invertebrates.

The owner of the business was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay full Environment Agency costs of £4,000 by Spalding Magistrates’ Court after pleading guilty to polluting a tributary of Hammond Beck Drain in February this year.

He told investigating Environment Agency officers that an oil tank had been vandalized on the site and a pipe had been ripped off. He thought his staff had cleaned up all the oil and hadn’t realized there was a surface water drain underneath the area where the tank had stood so hadn’t notified the Agency of the spill.

Mrs Anne-Lise McDonald told magistrates that while it was unfortunate that a third party had damaged the oil tank causing the release of some oil, there was evidence of other oil being stored on site without appropriate environmental management.

‘Furthermore, the impact may have been reduced if it had been realized that the oil had got into the surface water drainage for the site,’ she said.

Environment Agency officer Graham Cantellow investigated reports of oil in the Hammond Beck Drain and traced it back to Donington North Ing Pump Drain and then to the yard. He put out booms half a kilometer from the yard and two days later found red diesel trapped in the booms and a swan in distress nearby.

The RSPCA was alerted and Mr Cantellow helped them to rescue the swan.

Investigating officers reported seeing pools of water with signs of oil in them at the yard as well as dark stains and contaminated water around bulk containers. They also found thick dark oil under a grate close to a vehicle washing area and in a drain at another part of the site.

The business owner said that since the incident he had moved all oil inside, had a proper procedure in place to deal with any spills and had contacted a company for security.

After the hearing Environment Agency officer Claire Magee said: ‘Oil can have serious impacts on the environment and clean-up costs can be very expensive.

‘Anyone storing oil must ensure that they comply with all the relevant legislation and take appropriate measures to keep their oil safe and secure. Any spills should be reported to the Environment Agency without delay.’

The business pleaded guilty to: On or about 15 February 2009 you did cause poisonous, noxious or polluting matter namely oil to enter controlled waters, namely a tributary of Hammond Beck Drain at Donington, near Spalding, Lincolnshire.

Mrs McDonald told magistrates that the effect on the watercourse extended 900 metres.

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