Norfolk farm pollution leads to £23,000 penalty

Liquid organic waste from vegetable processing plants polluted watercourses after it was spread on a farm in Norfolk without authorisation, a court heard.

Poplar Farm, in Outwell, had an environmental exemption for waste produced on the farm to be spread.

But over a two-year period, from November 2013 to June 2015, an estimated 7,700t of waste potatoes and vegetable washings were taken to the farm and deposited or spread over 4ha of land.

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DEM King’s Lynn Ltd, a company based in Outwell, conducted the waste operation without an environmental permit, King’s Lynn Magistrates Court was told.

Director Trevor William Sieley, who controlled the land, stored too much waste in a lagoon and spread too much waste on the land, leading to runoff and pollution.

The lagoon, used to store some of the waste, over-spilled and was too close to a ditch. Following reports that a slurry pit was polluting nearby watercourses, Environment Agency (EA) officers visited the farm in April 2015.

They found heaps of potatoes stored in the field, straw bale walls of the lagoon decomposing and effluent leaking from the lagoon into the ditch.

‘No action taken’

In June 2015, EA officers told the company to stop work and clear the site by 1 October, but no action was taken.

Gurjit Bdesha, prosecuting on behalf of the Environment Agency, said: “In November 2015, the lagoon looked the same, potatoes around the site were in various states of decay and the soil in the field gave off a decaying smell.

“The lagoon was over-spilling into a ditch that flowed to an internal drainage board drain.”

Mr Sieley, who had received a warning letter and previous prosecutions for similar offences,  was found guilty of allowing an illegal waste operation without an authorised environmental permit. He was fined £1,920, ordered to pay court costs of £10,041 and a victim surcharge of £170.

DEM, which pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to spreading the waste illegally, was fined £3,667, ordered to pay £7,666 and a victim surcharge of £170.

Speaking after the hearing, an EA spokesman said: “This company was not complying with the agricultural exemption and was taking waste illegally from other businesses. By not having the right environmental permit, illegal waste activities pose a threat to human health and the environment by contaminating land polluting rivers.”

Rules for farmers and land managers to prevent water pollution

Defra published new guidance in April to encourage farmers to take steps to prevent manure, fertiliser and soil getting into watercourses – known as diffuse water pollution.

These rules apply to farming or horticultural practices, such as:

  • Using and storing organic manure or manufactured fertiliser
  • Planting and harvesting
  • Soil management – for example, ploughing or planting cover crops
  • Managing livestock on your land.

The rules apply to farmers and landowners who are in a nitrate-vulnerable zone (NVZ), receive funding from the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), Countryside Stewardship or Environmental Stewardship.

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