Farmer fined £2,000 for water pollution.

A farmer has been fined £,2000 after his drainage system collapsed, grossly polluting over two kilometres of watercourse.

John Alan Dale, of Somerset Farm, Cants Drove, Murrow, appeared at Peterborough Magistrates Court on Tuesday (March 26). He was also ordered to pay a £2,500 contribution to costs.

A soakaway collapsed causing waste effluent stored in pits to empty into a ditch on site that connected to a tributary of the Bishoplands Drain. The pollution was black and had a strong septic smell.

The Environment Agency sent an officer to investigate on April 24 2012, after receiving a report of pollution from the Internal Drainage Board. The officer traced the pollution to Somerset Farm, where Dale told him that a new soakaway constructed a month before had leaked into the watercourse. The officer saw that a ditch on site ran adjacent to the soakaway within three metres of it.

Steps were taken to remedy the pollution, and monitoring tests revealed that the watercourse had recovered by May 4.

Although there was no evidence that fish were harmed by this incident, there was the potential to impact fish as the New Wryde Drain, situated 3.7 kilometres downstream of the point of entry of the pollution, supports a varied coarse fish population.

Claire Corfield, Solicitor for the Environment Agency, said: “An Environment Agency biologist visited and surveyed the watercourse to determine the impact on invertebrates. He concluded that there was a substantial impact on the community for over two kilometres.”

Dale informed the Environment Agency that he installed the drainage system and pits when he first started operating from Somerset Farm 12 years ago. The liquid in the pits comprised run off from the animal feed stored in the yard, rainfall and a small amount of run-off from the cattle’s bedding.

The soakaway was installed three years ago and liquid filters from the pits to the soakaway. He sought the advice of a builder, but did not consult the Agency. Dale believed the liquid in the pits was dirty water, but since learnt that it was highly polluting. A rabbit had burrowed into the soakaway, resulting in half of the effluent in the pits emptying to the ditch.

He did not hold a permit to discharge to the ditch. Dale believed he was doing nothing wrong and said he would never have discharged if he had known he did not have the necessary authorisation.

Speaking after the hearing, Environment Agency officer Richard Williams said: “The defendant did not consult the Agency on construction of the soakaway. He failed to obtain an environmental permit and to ensure that contaminated effluent was adequately treated before disposal to the soakaway and watercourse.

“Contaminated effluent should be properly treated before discharge to a soakaway, and the system should be located in a position that ensures it does not affect surface watercourses or groundwater.”