A clean-up operation is in full swing following a leak from the anaerobic digester at Harper Adams University.

Staff and emergency services worked through the night after an unknown amount of digestate leaked from the £3m-plus renewable power system at Newport, Shropshire.

The AD plant is powered by 11,000t of dairy and pig slurry and up to 12,000t of food waste that would otherwise have gone to landfill.

Shropshire fire service sent hazard materials officers and four pumping appliances to Harper after the leak was reported on Tuesday (19 February).

Police closed a road and Environment Agency officials are also in attendance.

“We regret to report that we suffered a leak of digestate from a storage tank on our AD system,” said university vice-chancellor David Llewellyn. “No one was hurt as a consequence of this incident.”

An eyewitness told Farmers Weekly that the leak was thought to have been caused by mechanical failure, rather than an explosion or student prank.

The eyewitness, who did not want to be named, said: “Digestate is covering a fieldside road. Men are working at pumping it.”

Prof Llewellyn said university staff had “worked extremely hard” through the night with local services to ensure the incident was managed

He added: “We are also working closely with the Environment Agency and local services to ensure that a full clean-up operation is under way.

“We are actively investigating the cause of the leak, but it is too early to comment further on the exact nature of the problem and further information will be provided later.”

The incident comes a month after researchers at Harper were awarded £150,000 to investigate AD as an on-farm method for the disposal of animal carcasses.

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