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Farm fined for exceeding N limit on 19 fields

Watercourse Pollution

A farm has appeared in court in connection with pollution – the illegal discharge of anaerobic digestate and sugar beet washings into a local watercourse.

Springhill Farms (Pershore) LTD came before Kidderminster Magistrates Court on May 25th, 2022.

The farm pleaded guilty to the above offences and failed to comply with nitrate regulations, having allowed 2.5 times the limit to be spread onto land.

The judge ordered the company to pay £120,000 in fines and costs of £28,125.19.

Officers from the Environment Agency were first alerted to the situation in February 2018. Members of the public discovered dead fish in Piddle Brook near Redditch.

Faulty pipe

An investigation discovered a faulty pipe had started to discharge anaerobic digestate into the watercourse from nearby Rotherdale Farm, which the company runs.

Officers were told that the company used a lagoon to store digestate and utilised an underground pump system to spread liquid as a fertiliser.

They found around 220 dead fish in Piddle Brook and another 100 at a marina further down the watercourse.

Farm employees said they did not maintain records of the volumes in the lagoon. Furthermore, they claimed that they no maintenance record either of the lagoon or pipework.

A further offence was recorded in May of 2018 when company officials notified the Environment Agency that foam had been reported in Piddle Brook.

An investigation revealed that sugar beet discharge, which they were using to irrigate a field, had started to spill into the watercourse from a faulty pipe.

Officers did not discover any dead fish on this occasion. The court heard the farm took “immediate” steps to fix the faulty pipe.

The initial investigation prompted the Environment Agency to ask the company for levels of nitrates it uses on the farm.

Regulations

In 2015, the government introduced regulations aimed at farms limiting the amounts of nitrogen used on land. The aim is to prevent the pollution of ground and surface waters.

However, the company admitted there was no nitrogen fertiliser plan in accordance with the regulations.

Officers discovered the farm had subsequently treated 19 fields with amounts of nitrogen that exceeded the 250kg/hectare limit.

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