12 March 1999

Great concern over fresh dip disposal rules

New dip disposal rules

are causing confusion.

Jeremy Hunt reports

HIGH costs and confusion over interpreting new dip disposal rules mean sheep producers are concerned about the Environment Agency regulations designed to cut pollution risks.

During a series of NFU/EA on-farm demonstrations in Cumbria to highlight new rules covering dip disposal, producers were told that failure to obtain authorisation would mean they would not be allowed to spread dip on their land until inspected and approved.

"After Mar 31, if farmers have not made an application concerning disposal of dip on their own farm they will not be allowed to carry on that activity until they receive a valid authorisation," said EA officer Ian Warner, who is based at Penrith.

The two categories are small – up to 5000 litres (1100 gal) spread up to six times a year, and large – any volume higher than that. Both categories require an initial licence, costing £84 and £589 respectively. Annual fees will also have to be paid which may be around £100 for small volume disposal. Subsistence figures for large volume spread have not been specified.

When sheep producers gathered at the Tallentire familys farm at High Griseburn, Great Asby, Appleby, they were meticulously taken through the seven-page application form which must be completed before a licence can be issued.

"The aim is to safeguard water supplies from contamination by spent dip. It all depends on ground water vulnerability and how likely it is to become polluted.

"For producers in an area where there is virtually no risk of pollution to ground water it will be much easier to achieve an authorisation to dispose of dip compared with land from which usable water is drawn," said Mr Warner.

The new regulations state that spent dip must be disposed of at a rate of 5000 litres/ha (445 gal/acre). But confusion has arisen over farm equipment capable of spreading at this rate. Failure to dilute according to the regulations when using a vacuum tanker could lead to a more concentrated application and a greater risk of pollution.

The EA says producers can overcome this risk by diluting used dip at the rate of three parts slurry or three parts water to one part dip to enable the correct application by vacuum tanker.

"We are not saying that farmers must dilute dip to obtain authorisation. It depends on the equipment they are using. A rota-spreader may be able to apply at the approved rate without dilution," added Mr Warner.

But many farmers feel they have not been given enough time to consider new groundwater regulations and the impact they will have on the way they dispose of sheep dip.

EA officer Stewart Mounsey acknowledged these concerns: "The time scale of the introduction of the new regulations has been very tight when you consider the deadline for applications is Mar 31.

"When you are disposing of sheep dip on your own land you must have authorisation from the EA. If you are using a mobile dipper and the dip is being left on the farm for disposal you still need an authorisation.

"Only when the dip contained in a mobile dipper is being taken off the farm by the operator – and this must be made clear at the outset – is authorisation under the new regulations not required by the farmer client. In that case it is the owner of the mobile dipper who needs to have authorisation to dispose of the spent dip," said Mr Mounsey.

But two neighbouring farmers can join forces over dip disposal in an attempt to save money. The authorisation would be granted to one of the producers involved but he would be responsible for disposal. He would complete the documentation as a single applicant but would have to state clearly that both his own and a neighbours used dip was being applied to designated land on his own holding.

Producers moving spent dip into a slurry store prior to spreading may find themselves falling into the larger volume spreading category with considerably higher costs involved.

"We have informed all farmers about the possible risk of incurring higher charges where they choose to meet the new dip disposal regulations by putting dip into a slurry store. Farmers have the option to do this but it will increase the volume of liquid to be spread.

"Its still a grey area in the regulations. All we can do is make farmers aware of the higher costs they may incur if they take that option."

But Mr Mounsey stressed that used dip should be disposed of as soon after use as possible. "Dipping tanks containing solution pose a high pollution risk to the environment. They should be emptied as a priority. If left uncovered the chances of an overflow through rainwater or of dip escaping from the tank increase."

Detailed maps of the areas that will be used to spread spent dip and their proximity to watercourses must be clearly stated as part of the EAs licensing procedure.

DIPDISPOSALRULES

&#8226 Protect groundwater.

&#8226 Application volume concern.

&#8226 Could co-operate to cut cost.