Dairy farms polluting again

The unusually wet spring has had a predictable effect on effluent discharges from Britain's dairy farms. A series of pollution incidents in west Wales and south-west England has caused major fish kills on several rivers and polluted potable water supplies.

According to the Welsh Water Authority, over 10,000 fish have been killed in south west Dyfed during the past three months in ten separate incidents. The majority have involved silage liquors, generated in higher quantities than usual because of the high rainfall in April. Prosecutions are being considered against 18 farmers amidst signs that local magistrates are beginning to clamp down on persistent offenders, with one recent case bringing fines and costs totalling a record £2,638 for two pollution incidents involving farm slurry.

The picture in the South West Water Authority area is little better, with hundreds of fish having been killed in each of five separate incidents on the Tamar, Strat, Torridge, Waldon, and Showbrooks Lake Stream. All have involved animal slurry in a repeat of the incidents which last year prompted the Authority's Water Control and Quality Committee to call for tougher penalties against polluters (ENDS Report 93, p 7).

On present trends, it seems likely that the total number of pollution incidents will be pushed up again in 1983, continuing the consistent upward trend recorded in recent years (ENDS Report 101, p 7). Additional controls on farm discharges were recommended by the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution in 1979, but the Government has still to act despite a promise that a response to the Commission's report would be made "early in 1983".

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