Badgers’ burrowing sees firm fined £13k

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Pig slurry polluted a tributary of the Dale stream at Market Rasen when parts of a storage lagoon bank collapsed, Lincoln Magistrates’ Court heard last week.

Elsham Linc Ltd, of Elsham Top, Brigg, pleaded guilty to causing gross pollution with the liquid waste in July 2010 at North Moor Farm, Caistor Road, Middle Rasen, and was fined £13,400 and ordered to pay full costs of £4,779.

The pollution had a serious impact on invertebrates killing almost entire colonies of them, Claire Bentley told the court.

Prosecuting for the Environment Agency, she said that samples taken from the point where the waste went into the tributary showed very high levels of ammonia and more than four miles (6.6km) downstream the level was still toxic.

Company director Samuel Godfrey told investigating officers that it appeared badgers had burrowed into the retaining bank of the storage lagoon and the slurry had leaked out when some of the bank collapsed as a result.

He said the lagoon banks had been checked once a month before the incident.

To prevent recurrence of the incident the company has changed the slurry storage system to a steel tank.

Miss Bentley told magistrates that storage of slurry in an earth banked lagoon was not a fail safe system. She said preventative measures were inadequate for preventing pollution.

“The defendant failed to carry out a risk assessment of the slurry storage system,” she said.

She said that a ditch, built only two metres away from the lagoon for surface water drainage, merely served to increase the risk of a pollution happening.

“The defendant failed to carry out regular checks of the surface waters around the farm and of the lagoon embankment,” said Miss Bentley.

In mitigation Mr Richard Taylor, solicitor for the defendant, said that this was an exceptional case and the company is a family-run business which operates 14 sites and has never had a similar problem.

After the hearing Environment Agency officer James Brackenbury said: “Farmers must ensure that slurry stores and dirty water systems are in a good state of repair. It is important to undertake regular checks and have documented pollution prevention procedures and risk assessments in place.

“We want to work with farmers to avoid problems like this. Anyone wanting advice about slurry management or general pollution prevention can contact the Environment Agency on 03708 506 506.”

Elsham Linc pleaded guilty to: On or about July 20 2010, you did cause the entry into inland freshwaters, namely a tributary of the Dale, of poisonous noxious or polluting matter, namely slurry effluent, at North Moor Farm, Caistor Road, Middle Rasen