A judge has ordered a farm business – specialist cheese producers – to pay £37,184 for water pollution.
Somerset farm business, Alvis Brothers Ltd, of Lye Cross Farm, Redhill, appeared before Bristol Magistrates Court on December 2nd, 2021.
They pleaded guilty to two pollution offences that occurred three years ago.
The court heard they have a” long history of environmental offending”. The Environment Agency previously issued formal caution and warning letters.
Lye Cross Farm supplies cheese to supermarkets, including Waitrose, Marks and Spencer and Sainsbury. Furthermore, it exports to more than 40 countries worldwide.
On June 28th, 2019, an environment officer attended the farm. They received a report of slurry pollution to a tributary of the Congresbury Yeo near Cheddar.
They found the pollution source to be run-off from a heap of farmyard manure at Lye Cross Farm.
The run-off had entered a surface water drain that led to the stream, and more than half a kilometre was polluted.
The court heard they built a basic bund to contain the run-off.
However, when environment officers returned to the farm on July 2nd, effluent leaked from the bund and again contaminated the watercourse.
Assessments by the Environment Agency the following week found a “chronic” impact on the aquatic invertebrates living downstream of the farm.
They only found sensitive species, which indicated a good water quality, upstream.
The slurry leak from the bund was still happening on a return to the site on July 31st.
On a farm visit on September 18th, environment officers witnessed a second pollution case This time, they were spreading pig slurry on nearby fields.
The slurry entered a field drain, discharging to the same watercourse.
District Judge Lynne Matthews described the offences as “disgraceful” and “appalling” in court.
She said that the company should not require ‘nurse-maiding’ by the Environment Agency, given their farming experience.
Judge Matthews also said that in all the pollutions she had dealt with, offenders had not “had as many slaps across the hand from the Environment Agency as in this case”.
Environment Agency Environment Officer, Jenny Hasell, said:
“Repeated pollution events from Lye Cross Farm have caused protracted damage to the local environment.”
“We expect much better from such a large and experienced farming business, both for the environment and local communities.”