Environment Agency sign© London News Pictures/Rex

A farming partnership that polluted a river donated £5,000 to charity rather than face prosecution and pay a fine.

Brunt Brothers of Clandown Farm, Clandown, near Radstock, Somerset, offered to pay the money to the Bristol Avon Rivers Trust after polluting a tributary of the Wellow Brook river.

The pollution incident happened when the slurry store at the farm failed on 2 February 2013.

See also: Wet weather blamed for slurry pollution incidents

Some 682,000 litres of slurry surged across a yard, over a 1.3m wall, and spilled on to a highway and farm track.

Such was the surge and volume of slurry released that it travelled more than 100m downhill and into fields immediately downstream.

The slurry entered the main Wellow Brook in the nearby town of Radstock, killing 100 trout and a small number of other species.

Three angling clubs on the affected stretch of river had actively been involved in habitat work to encourage wild brown trout to thrive.

Environment Agency officers found slurry 15cm deep on the road – although the partnership had recently expanding their slurry storage capacity to comply with nitrate regulations.

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.”

Along with prosecutions, the Environment Agency can use enforcement notices, stop notices and civil sanctions to either improve performance or stop sites from operating.

Ms Sage said the agency was making better use of the wide range of available measures to bring sites back into compliance as quickly as possible.

A civil sanction and charitable donation achieved more for the environment than had the partnership been convicted and fined.

In any enforcement undertaking, the person or company must where possible restore or remediate the harm caused by the pollution incident.

In addition, they may make a financial contribution to a recognised environmental charity or project.

The wrongdoer must also demonstrate they will change their behaviour and ensure compliance with environmental legislation.

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

As well as the £5,000 donation, Brunt Brothers offered to make improvements to the slurry store, ensure compliance with the relevant legislation and pay Environment Agency costs.