Three farms fined for water pollution

Three farms in the south and east of England racked up more than £30,000 in fines and costs over two days in December, following guilty pleas in water pollution prosecutions.

APT Farming Ltd of Elm Farm near Eye in Suffolk was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay £3,300 costs on 15 December, after a spillage from a fertiliser mixing tank killed more than 500 fish in nearby Wickham Hall lake in February 2008. Ammonia levels downstream of the discharge were 603 times normal levels.

Bury St Edmunds magistrates also ordered the firm to pay £2,600 for restocking the lake, which flows into the river Dove.

The Agency told magistrates the tank was not sited in a suitable location according to the Fertiliser Manufacturers Association’s code of practice.

On the same day, farmer James Andrews, trading as Lincolnshire Pigs, in Howsham, Lincolnshire, was fined £3,000 on three counts and ordered to pay £1,000 costs by Lincoln magistrates.

The Agency told the court that visits by its officers revealed his pig breeding unit had polluted Froghall drain in April 2008. This was due to poor management and ignorance about the site’s drainage. Highly polluting slurry leaked into the drain at three locations. An overflowing slurry lagoon had been one source.

On 16 December, Caudwell and Sons Limited of The Grange near Abingdon, Oxfordshire, was fined £8,000, ordered to pay £6,683 in court costs and condemned for being "reckless" by Didcot magistrates.

The farm company had polluted a tributary of the Ginge brook with the pesticides prosulfocarb and trifluralin. Hundreds of rainbow trout and roach were killed and pollutant levels remained at toxic concentrations for more than a month.

The Agency was alerted to the pollution in October 2007 after a caller to its hotline reported the stream had turned lime green. The source was traced to a pipe draining one of Caudwell’s fields. Samples showed trifluralin levels at 190 times its environmental quality standard. Sale of the compound was prohibited in March last year and a ban on its storage and use will follow this March.

The court heard that a large volume of pesticide was spilt after a sprayer malfunctioned during the treatment of arable fields. The damage could have been reduced had the company alerted the Agency immediately.

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