‘Entirely preventable’ silage effluent spill costs farmer £15,000

A Leicestershire farmer has been ordered to pay out more than £15,000 after an illegal discharge of silage effluent into a brook caused the death of around 80 fish.

Roger Hobill of Grange Farm, Welby, near Melton Mowbray, this week pleaded guilty to causing a discharge of silage effluent which was not authorised by an environmental permit, contrary to regulations 12(1)(b) 38(1) of the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2016. 

Hobill also admitted failing to construct an adequate silo for the storage of silage, contrary to regulation 10(1) of the Water Resources (control of pollution) (Silage, Slurry, and Agricultural Fuel Oil) (England) Regulations 2010.

He was fined a total of £5,608 and ordered to pay £9,787.50 costs plus a victim surcharge of £190, the Environment Agency (EA), which brought the prosecution, said in a statement.

Leicester Magistrates Court was told that officers from the EA were first alerted to the incident when Ashfordby Fishing Lakes reported the discovery of dead fish. The EA said that an assessment by officers found elevated ammonia levels and around 80 dead fish were discovered, including roach, common bream and gudgeon, while others were seen gasping for air.

The EA’s statement said that officers then attended nearby Howell Lake where a drop in oxygen levels had been detected. 

The officers visited Welby Farm where Hobill told them an internal wall of his silage clamp had recently collapsed and it may have resulted in a leakage of silage liquor onto the farmyard and into the surface drainage system.

They saw a cracked internal wall where silage had escaped. A combination of slurry, cattle feed and silage liquor was running downhill and into the surface water drain, the EA’s statement said. Water samples showed that the brook was clear and uncontaminated upstream while downstream the brook was black and had a septic odour, according to the EA.

An EA spokesperson said: “This pollution incident was entirely preventable and shows that our officers will seek out farmers who ignore the regulations.

“This case has resulted in unacceptable pollution of a local brook, causing significant harm to fish and other aquatic wildlife.”