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HomeFarming NewsFarmer (33) to pay over €10k after polluting watercourse multiple times
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Farmer (33) to pay over €10k after polluting watercourse multiple times

A judge has ordered a farmer, who polluted a watercourse three times, to pay over £10,000.

Ben Hembrow, Huntham Farm, Stoke St Gregory, appeared before Taunton Magistrates’ Court on October 6th, 2021.

The 33-year-old will have to pay the Environment Agency costs of £9,567.38, fines totalling £1,689 and a victim surcharge of £168.

He polluted more than 1.5km of a watercourse, a tributary of Sedgemoor Old Rhyne.

Polluted watercourse

A short distance downstream, the watercourse enters the West Sedgemoor Site of Special Scientific, the Somerset Levels and Moors Special Protection Area and RAMSAR site.

On June 19th, 2019, following a report of low dissolved oxygen levels on the Sedgemoor Old Rhyne, environment officers found a tributary polluted with slurry.

They traced the pollution back to his farm enterprise, where a slurry lagoon had overtopped.

Slurry had run across a farm track, collected in the orchard, and made its way to the watercourse.

The court heard that a week later, although the farmer had taken action to try and prevent further pollution, slurry was still visible on the watercourse’s bed.

On October 29th, 2019, officers again attended a pollution report to the same tributary of the Sedgemoor Old Rhyne.

Their investigations found a surface water drain discharging to the tributary. Using dye tracing, they confirmed the drain runoff from dirty yards contaminated the drains.

On January 30th, 2020, following reports of further pollution to the tributary of the Sedgemoor Old Rhyne, officers found the tributary polluted with slurry due to slurry spreading activity on nearby fields.

The court heard the farmer had applied slurry at a rate which “caused runoff into the ditch”.

Previous offences

In 2016, the farmer was found guilty of polluting this same tributary of the Sedgemoor Old Rhyne.

The court previously ordered him to pay the following fines for pollution:

  • June 2019: £921;
  • October 2019: £384;
  • January 2021: £384.

In August 2016, Hembrow was fined £410. He pleaded guilty to causing an unpermitted water discharge activity, namely the discharge of poisonous, noxious or polluting matter.

A judge fined him a £410 with a £41 victim surcharge after admitting to failing to ensure that he made and stored silage in accordance with regulations.

Hembrow also pleaded guilty to discharging effluent from the land and premises at Huntham Farm, Stoke St Gregory.

It exceeded the limit of the biological oxygen demand of 200 parts per million. As a result, he was fined £330 with a £33 victim surcharge.

Read more court news.

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