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Farm fined over €40k after fish die

Farm in court

A judge has ordered a farm company to pay over £34,000 (over €40,000) for polluting a tributary, which resulted in a fish kill, following a court apperance.

Velcourt appeared before North Somerset Magistrates Court on Monday, April 4th, 2022, in connection with the incident.

It pleaded guilty to polluting a tributary of the Hardington Brook, Hardington, Somerset, on or before August 1st, 2018.

The company, whose head office is in Ross-on-Wye, will pay the Environment Agency costs of £14,000, a total fine of £20,000 and a victim surcharge of £170.

The Environment Agency received reports of dead fish in the Hardington Brook and Buckland Brook on the above date.

Officers attended and found dead fish – including brown trout and bullhead – in the Hardington Brook.

The following day they traced the discoloured water to a side stream flowing from the direction of Manor Farm. They found a non-permitted discharge from the farm’s surface water drainage system.

The court heard that the discharge was heavily “discoloured”. Samples confirmed it would prove fatal to fish because of its ammonia concentration.

Furthermore, it had a “very high” biological oxygen demand which limited the oxygen supply to the fish in Hardington Brook.

Manor Farm is owned by the Radstock Cooperative Society, but operated on their behalf by Velcourt Ltd, of Orchard House, Phocle Green Business Park, Ross-on-Wye.

The farm manager stopped the discharge and emptied the ditch.  But a follow-up inspection from an environment officer on September 14th, 2018, found polluting matter in a ditch.

The inspection concluded the farm’s dirty drainage system still posed a ‘high potential pollution risk’. The court heard that this was due to insufficient storage capacity and appropriate engineering.

Consequently, farm run-off could enter the surface water ditch and the watercourse.

The environment officer concluded that the farm had not “adequately” constructed infrastructure in accordance with the Water Resources (Control of Pollution) (Silage, Slurry and Agricultural Fuel Oil) (England) Regulations 2010 (SSAFO Regulations).

Furthermore, it had not “adequately” separated clean and dirty water systems. Moreover, its slurry storage and dirty water drainage systems had not kept pace with its expansion phase.

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