A farmer has appeared in court for illegally discharging silage effluent into a brook, causing the death of around 80 fish.
The Environment Agency has successfully prosecuted Leicestershire farmer, Roger Hobill of Grange Farm, Welby, at Leicester Magistrates’ Court on Monday, July 4th, 2022.
The farmer pleaded guilty to causing a discharge of silage effluent, which was not authorised by an environmental permit.
Also, he admitted failing to construct an adequate silo for the storage of silage.
The judge handed him a £5,608 fine and ordered him to pay £9,787.50 costs plus a victim surcharge of £190.
Discharging silage effluent
The Environment Agency (EA) said that this pollution case was “entirely preventable”.
The court heard that EA officers were first alerted to the incident when Asfordby Fishing Lakes reported the discovery of dead fish.
Officers conducted a water quality assessment and found elevated ammonia levels.
They also discovered some 80 dead fish, made up of roach, common bream and gudgeon.
The court heard that “distressed” fish were also present and were “intermittently gasping for air”.
Officers then attended nearby Howell Lake, where a drop in oxygen levels had been detected.
Furthermore, they also visited Welby Brook, which was about 1.5km upstream.
This led to a visit to Welby Farm, where Hobill identified himself as the farm owner.
He said that an internal wall of his silage clamp had recently collapsed.
He said that it may have resulted in a leakage of silage liquor onto the farmyard and into the surface drainage system.
Cracked internal wall
The farmer showed officers the silage clamp, and they saw a cracked internal wall. Silage had escaped through the cracks onto the yard.
Slurry runoff from the open cattle pen was also present, and a combination of slurry, cattle feed, and silage liquor were running downhill and into the surface water drain.
A small dam had been created, but this was “ineffective,” the court heard, in stopping the flow.
Water samples showed that the brook was clear and uncontaminated upstream. Meanwhile, downstream the brook was black and had a “septic” odour.
The next day, officers revisited the holding to find that heavy rain had caused further runoff contaminated with silage liquor and manure to run into the surface water drains.
Waste run-off water
The defendant told the officers that he was aware that wet silage was creating waste runoff water, but there was a drain to carry it away.
Hobill said that a month or so before the pollution incident, he had bunded the drain and was collecting and pumping out the effluent.
After approximately six weeks, Hobill believed that the runoff had stopped and thought the bund was still in place but never checked.
It transpired that the bund had been removed – possibly by an employee or by the cattle walking over it.
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