Somerset farm fined £20k after polluting stream 

A farm located in Somerset has been ordered to pay out nearly £20,000 following the Environment Agency’s accusation of “reckless” behaviour leading to pollution of a stream.

Pollution caused by the Somerset farm, photo by Environment Agency.

After admitting two charges related to causing pollution, F.A.W. Bakers Kingston Farm Ltd of Rushywood Farm, Haselbury, Plucknett, was fined a total of £16,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3,220 by Taunton Magistrates.

The farm near Crewkerne polluted a stream after a farm inspection by the Environment Agency recommended that improvements should be made to prevent possible pollution. During the agency’s case, the court were informed that officers were called to Small Brook in February 2022 after receiving a report of sewage fungus in the watercourse and a drastic drop in the water quality was confirmed by field test samples.

Officers traced the source of the pollution to a leaking silage clamp on farmer Neil Baker’s land at Rushywood Farm, where silage effluent was leaking out from a large silage clamp, pooling in the field and then overflowing into the ditch.

Inspected in 2019 

Sewage fungal growth was noted along the entire 800m stretch of the Small Brook, until its confluence with the larger Broad River. Mr Baker claimed not to know where the pollution in the ditch came from and initially refused to engage with the officers when they spoke to him.

As soon as the source was pointed out, he agreed to block the ditch and redirect the polluting effluent to a temporary lagoon. The court heard that the Environment Agency had specifically highlighted the silage making areas as non-compliant with regulations during a routine farm inspection in 2019.   

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Advice was given at the time of inspection relating to the minimum construction standards required to reduce the risk of pollution and the regulations were explained. The officer’s report set out the actions needed in order to avoid an incident, such as the one to the Small Brook, occurring.   

The Environment Agency received a statement outlining the company’s admitted responsibility for the silage clamp pollution. The farm also admitted that improvements had not been made to drainage from the silage clamp that were recommended, and agreed to, during the 2019 inspection.  

At the time of the pollution incident the company set out remediation actions to stop effluent entering the watercourse and have since made the main silage clamp SSAFO compliant.  

READ MORE: Recently a Herefordshire farmer John Price has been sentenced for organising the illegal felling of trees, shortly before he was imprisoned for another environmental offence.

Reckless” behaviour

Senior Environment Agency officer, Dave Womack, said it was “reckless” to ignore the construction standards and the advice given previously. He added: “The company had been given clear advice and guidance on what they needed to do to improve the silage making areas comply with regulations that have been in place for over 30 years.

“If the new silage clamp had been installed with perimeter effluent channels on all sides, or if the Agency had been notified of its construction, as required by law, this pollution event could easily have been prevented.

“Anyone planning to build new silage or slurry facilities must consult with the Environment Agency prior to starting construction. We are here to help ensure the correct construction standards are followed and that new facilities are located a minimum of 10m from watercourses, which will minimise the risk of pollution occurring.”

In July 2023, the UK government decided to raise fines for litter, graffiti and fly-tipping as it moves to clamp down on anti-social behaviour that harms nature and communities.

According to Sentencing Council, fines for unauthorised or harmful deposit, treatment or disposal of waste/ Illegal discharges to air, land and water can range from £100 to £3 million, with maximum of five years in custody for individuals.

To express an opinion on environmental fines on farms, please email editor@farmersguide.co.uk.

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