Press release

Somerset farm offers £5,000 civil sanction for polluting river

Farming partnership Brunt Brothers of Clandown Farm, Clandown, near Radstock, Somerset, offer of a £5,000 donation to an environmental charity for polluting a tributary of the Wellow Brook river in Somerset has been accepted by the Environment Agency.

The partnership has offered to pay an enforcement undertaking in the form of a donation following a major pollution incident in Clandown on 2 February 2013, when the slurry store at the farm failed. This resulted in approximately 150,000 gallons of slurry surging across a yard, over a four foot wall, and spilling on to the highway and farm track.

Such was the surge and volume of slurry released that it travelled over 100 metres downhill and into the fields immediately downstream.

It entered the main Wellow Brook in the nearby town of Radstock, killing 100 trout and a small number of other species. There were 3 angling clubs on the affected stretch some of which had actively been involved in habitat work to encourage wild brown trout to thrive.

The farmers managed to recover an estimated 50 % of the slurry spilled by scraping the roads, tracks and fields.

Officers from the Environment Agency attended the incident and found the slurry 15cm deep on the road. The farmers were already taking steps to clear up the slurry and prevent further pollution of the watercourse.They had recently invested in expanding their slurry storage capacity in order to comply with the Nitrate Regulations.

Along with prosecutions, the Environment Agency use enforcement notices, stop notices and civil sanctions to either improve performance or stop sites from operating. It is making better use of the wide range of measures that are available to bring sites back into compliance as quickly as possible.

Civil sanctions such as these are a proportionate and cost-effective way for businesses to make amends for less serious environmental offences.

The enforcement undertaking for environment offences was accepted by the Agency. In any enforcement undertaking, the person or company should offer to restore or remediate the harm caused by the incident where that is possible. They may also make a financial contribution to a recognised environmental charity or project to achieve environmental benefit. The wrongdoer must also demonstrate they will change their behaviour and ensure compliance with environmental legislation. Brunt Bros offered to:

  • make improvements to its slurry store and ensure compliance with the relevant legislation

  • pay £5,000 to Bristol Avon Rivers Trust (BART) for work in the catchment

  • payment of Environment Agency costs

Failure to comply with an enforcement undertaking may result in the person or company being prosecuted for the offence.

Paula Sage for the Environment Agency said:

We did initially consider prosecution due to the serious environmental harm the slurry had caused. However, the partnership then submitted an Enforcement Undertaking, which we subsequently accepted, as we considered it was a more proportionate response and that it would achieve more for the environment than if the partnership had been convicted and fined.

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