Hall Farm in Hilderstone, Staffordshire has been given a £14,000 pollution penalty after 3,000 fish perished in a nearby brook.
In a prosecution brought by the Environment Agency, B&M Elkin & Son, the company which runs the dairy farm, pleaded guilty to three charges of breaching environmental regulations following two pollution incidents and failing to provide adequate effluent storage.
The first incident occurred in Sept 2015 following a report of farm effluent discharging to the Gayton Brook, Milwich for several days. Investigators discovered that farm slurry had escaped from a gap in the storage pit. The incident caused effluent to run across the farm and into the brook, which was found to be “green/brown in colour with a white foam, with a foul odour present”. Approximately 3,000 fish were killed in this incident.
The second incident occurred on 30 June 2016, when effluent entered Wheatlow Brook, which was found to be “brown and frothy in appearance”.
Hall Farm is within a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone which means the farm must comply with strict slurry storage capacity. Environment Agency officers advised the company that there was insufficient storage capacity and that they were in breach of the Nitrate Pollution Prevention Regulations 2010. The company was fined £7,000, and ordered to pay £7,100 costs and a victim surcharge of £120.
It was considered that the company had run for 30 years without incident, cooperated with the Environment Agency and pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity. As well as this, B&M Elkin & Sons had voluntarily paid £1,000 to the local wildlife trust and had spent over £20,000 in improvements and remediation at their site.
The Environment Agency Officer leading the investigation said: “These were entirely preventable serious incidents, which led to pollution of farmland and watercourses in the area, resulting in the death of thousands of fish. The fact that the first incident was subsequently repeated gave us little choice but to pursue a prosecution.
“I hope this case sends a strong message to the farming industry that their activities have the potential for serious environmental impacts, and we take action when necessary.”