A farmer in Staffordshire was fined recently following pollution of Gayton Brook, Staffordshire where 3,000 fish perished.
In a prosecution brought by the Environment Agency, the Staffordshire farmer pleaded guilty to three charges of breaching Environmental Regulations following two pollution incidents and failing to provide adequate effluent storage.
The first incident occurred in September 2015 following a report of farm effluent discharging into the brook for several days. Investigators discovered that slurry had escaped from a gap in a slurry pit. The incident caused effluent to run across the farm and into the brook which was found to be green/brown in colour. Approximately 3,000 fish were killed in this incident.
A second incident occurred on 30 June 2016 when affluent entered another brook called Wheatlow Brook which was found to be brown and frothy in appearance.
The farm was within a nitrate vulnerable zone which means that the farm must comply with strict slurry storage restrictions. Environment Agency officers advised the farmer that there was insufficient storage capacity and that they were in breach of the Nitrate Pollution Prevention Regulations 2010. The farmer was fined £7,000 and ordered to pay £7,100 costs plus a surcharge of £120.
In mitigation, consideration had been given to the fact that the farm had been operating for 30 years without an incident. The farmer had also cooperated with the Environment Agency fully and pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity. In addition, the farmer had voluntarily paid £1,000 to the local Wildlife Trust and spent over £20,000 on improvements and remediation at their farm.
The Environment Agency Officer leading the investigation said that these were entirely preventable incidents which led to pollution of farm land and water courses resulting in the death of thousands of fish. The fact that the first incident was subsequently repeated gave little choice to the Environment Agency to pursue a prosecution.
The case was said to send a strong message to farmers that their activities have potential for serious environmental impacts and that action will be taken by the Environment Agency as necessary.
For more information contact Frank Smith & Co Solicitors on 01242 801748 or www.franksmithandco.com