Press release

Devon farmer prosecuted for food and septic tank waste offences

A Devon farmer has been given a suspended prison sentence and ordered to pay £1,000 costs for a series of waste offences.

The offences involved liquid food and abattoir waste and Andrew Bull was also ordered to carry out 100 hours community service.

Liquid food waste contains nutrients and is used as an agricultural fertiliser and soil improver. It can only be spread on land when it is needed and not disposed of in a way that could cause pollution. The storage and spreading of this type of waste is controlled by the Environment Agency through a series of environmental permits.

A court heard how in August 2010 Andrew Bull was granted a permit to store liquid waste in lagoons at three farms in the Beaworthy area of West Devon. He also stored septic tank waste at one of the farms. This wasn’t covered by a permit and is what is known as an ‘exempt’ activity.

In 2013 Environment Agency officers carried out a number of inspections and on each occasion offences were discovered at different lagoons.

At Little Pullworthy the lagoon was almost full with little, if any freeboard. The permit states waste must not be stored within 0.75m of the top of the lagoon. This is to reduce the risk of over-topping during wet weather.

The husbandry of the site was poor. Officers noticed an orange liquid leaching from a manure pile and there was evidence that waste had escaped from one of the septic tank lagoons. The waste from the lagoon contained sewage debris and was unsuitable for spreading on land. Septic tank waste must be stored without harming the environment.

Liquid waste was still present in a lagoon at Great Rutleigh Ball more than two months after permission for its storage had expired. Not only had the lagoon not been emptied, it had also been over-filled to within 150mm of the top. These offences were breaches of the permit.

During one visit to Little Pullworthy Farm, Agency officers saw a ‘black liquid oozing out of the ground’. It had leaked from a septic tank lagoon. Magistrates heard there had been a history of similar offences at sites operated by the defendant.

Tim de Winton for the Environment Agency said:

Liquid wastes can be beneficial when used as a fertiliser, but they must be stored safely to protect human health and the environment. It is important storage lagoons are regularly checked and properly maintained. Farmers must ensure they comply with the conditions of their permits. If they don’t, they risk prosecution.

Appearing before Exeter magistrates, Andrew Bull, of Little Pullworthy Farm, Highampton, Beaworthy was given an 18 week prison sentence suspended for two years, ordered to carry out 100 hours community service and pay £1000 costs after pleading guilty to a total of five offences under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010.