Welsh farm fined after 70k gallons of slurry was released into Ceredigion stream

A family-run farm from the Ceredigion area of Wales has been found guilty of an environmental crime after the catastrophic collapse of their slurry store polluted local waterways. The farm owners were ordered to pay over £13,000 in fines. 

Ceredigion NRW prosecuted Rhydsais Farm in Talgarreg after farm’s slurry store collapsed, releasing slurry into Afon Clettwr Fach.  
Photo by Natural Resources Wales.

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) prosecuted Rhydsais Farm in Talgarreg, Ceredigion, after the farm’s slurry store collapsed in February 2022, which released between 60,000 and 70,000 gallons of slurry into an unnamed tributary of the Afon Clettwr Fach.  

Water sample analysis from the subsequent investigation showed significant pollution levels extending from Rhydsais Farm to the confluence of the Afon Clettwr with the Afon Teifi, over seven miles away. 

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Dead fish discovered 

The collapse of the slurry store was initially reported to NRW by one of the directors of Rhydsais Cyf, and subsequent pollution reports were made to NRW by members of the public downstream of the farm. 

The environment officers were diverted from other duties to investigate the incident on the farm and assess the downstream impact. 

On the day of the incident, the river downstream was found to be heavily discoloured and covered in foam, with a strong odour of slurry. 

Six dead fish were discovered in the Afon Clettwr Fach the day after the incident. This likely underestimates the total fish kill as the pollution had caused poor visibility and the rivers were in high flow following rain. 

No formal maintenance 

A day after the incident, Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water alerted NRW to unusually high levels of ammonia detected at the Llechryd Water Treatment Works abstraction point, which supplies water to properties in south Ceredigion.  

The abstraction point was promptly closed until ammonia levels had dropped. The elevated level of ammonia may have been due to the Rhydsais slurry flowing through. 

During the investigation, it was revealed that the collapsed slurry store had been in place since the 1970s and had not received any formal maintenance apart from visual inspections in the past decade.  

NRW contended in court that the pollution was caused by the slurry store being beyond its lifespan and had not been maintained properly. 

READ MORE: £1.6m fund launches to help farmers manage water resources 

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Damaging water quality and local wildlife 

Rhydsais Cyf was found guilty of an offence under the Environmental Permitting (England & Wales) Regulations 2016. 

They were ordered to pay a total of £13,035. This included a £5,000 fine, a victim surcharge of £190 and £7,845 towards NRW’s costs of bringing the prosecution. 

Dr. Carol Fielding, team leader of the Ceredigion Environment Team, emphasised the severity of the environmental damage: 

“The impact of this incident was felt well beyond the stream that the slurry entered. It damaged water quality and local wildlife within the catchment of the Afon Teifi. 

“Every farmer has a duty to ensure their slurry stores are structurally sound to prevent such disasters. We will not hesitate to take enforcement action – including prosecution – when we have evidence of serious environmental breaches. 

“We regulate and work with farmers to avoid damage to the environment, and we encourage them to contact us or Farming Connect for advice and support.” 

Find advice for farmers on the NRW website.

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