Somerset farm ordered to pay out £20,000 after polluting stream

(Photo: Environment Agency)
(Photo: Environment Agency)

A Somerset farm which polluted a stream after failing to make improvements has been ordered to pay out nearly £20,000.

The incident happened after a farm inspection by the Environment Agency recommended improvements should be made to prevent possible pollution.

In the case brought by the agency, the court heard that officers were called to Small Brook in February 2022 after receiving a report of sewage fungus in the watercourse.

Field tests and samples confirmed a significant drop in water quality, with officers tracing the source of the pollution to a leaking silage clamp on farmer Neil Baker’s land at Rushywood Farm, near Crewkerne.

Silage effluent was leaking out from a large silage clamp, pooling in the field and overflowing into the ditch, according to the agency.

Sewage fungal growth was noted on the entire length of the Small Brook, a stretch of over 800m, until its confluence with the larger Broad River.

According to the Environment Agency, Mr Baker initially refused to engage when officers spoke to him and claimed not to know where the pollution in the ditch came from.

Once 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 agency had specifically highlighted the silage making areas as non-compliant with regulations during a routine farm inspection in 2019.

Advice was given relating to the minimum construction standards required to reduce pollution risk and explained the regulations.

A farm inspection report by the officer set out the actions needed in order to avoid a pollution incident, such as the one to the Small Brook, occurring.

In a statement sent to the Environment Agency, the company admitted responsibility for the pollution coming from the silage clamp.

The farm also admitted it had not made the improvements to drainage from the silage clamp recommended and agreed in 2019.

The company set out remediation actions taken at the time of the pollution incident to stop effluent entering the watercourse and how they had since made the main silage clamp SSAFO compliant.

Senior Environment Agency officer, Dave Womack, said it was 'reckless' to ignore the construction standards and the advice given previously.

"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."

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