Last week, Andrew Colinswood of Salcey Green Farm, Hanslope, pleaded guilty to a permitting offence after allowing farm waste to contaminate a tributary of the River Great Ouse in Salcey Forest – a conservation area visited by 250,000 walkers, cyclists, horse riders and tourists every year.
Northampton Magistrates Court heard that Colinswood had been negligent and breached environmental regulations when last April, two lagoons on his farm filled up with farmyard runoff, including raw cattle waste, before spilling over into connected drainage ditches which flowed into the stream.
The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016 (SI 2016/1154)
29 Jan 2019
Numerous reports were made to the Environment Agency (EA) that the stream was grey, covered in scummy foam and smelled of sewage.
EA sampling found levels of ammonia 10 times higher than upstream – enough to be extremely toxic to fish, invertebrates and other aquatic life.
Two weeks later, EA officers returned to find the effects of the pollution were still ongoing, and dense outbreaks of fungus and midge larvae indicated the contamination had been ongoing for an extended period of time.
The impact was so severe that the Forestry Commission erected signs warning the public to keep their dogs out of the water, and a wildlife ranger reported seeing no wildlife in the water since the pollution.
The court also heard how the farm lagoons had been constructed while Colinswood was in charge of the site and that this process damaged existing site drainage. The damage meant that once the lagoons reached a certain level, they would spill effluent via land drains into drainage ditches and then into the stream.
This was the third time in just over six months that Colinswood faced enforcement action for polluting the same stream with farm waste, despite advice and a formal warning from the EA.
Jack Taylor, the investigating officer at the EA said: “This farmer was negligently and repeatedly putting a protected forest at risk. Not only are some of the trees here around 600 years old, but the forest provides rare and ancient habitat for a number of precious plants and insects. Despite this, he still ignored advice and a formal warning.”
Colinswood pleaded guilty to breaching the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2016 by allowing farm waste to discharge into a watercourse. He was ordered to pay a fine of £1,600 and £7,000 in costs.