Sheep dip pollution, who carries the can?

THE ENVIRONMENT Agency is trying to highlight the issue of who takes responsibility for the disposal of sheep dip – the farmer or the mobile contractor?

Farmers and dipping contractors in the north west of England are being asked to complete a Sheep Dip Checklist as part of a pilot campaign.

After a high profile water pollution prosecution in June in which a Cumbria farmer was fined £2900 for allowing sheep dip to enter a water course, the Environment Agency is asking farmers and contactors to complete the new checklist before any sheep are dipped on the farm.

The checklist is based on safety measures already in place to prevent pollution by dip. It aims to highlight the risks by an on-the-spot run through of procedures between the farmer and the mobile contractor.

“The tiniest amount of sheep dip – and that includes dip dripping from a sheep or even splashes from a fleece – can have a devastating effect on aquatic life. The incident in Cumbria this summer caused the death of about 5000 fish,” said Andrew Penton of the Environment Agency in Warrington.

Although the EA recognises that sheep farmers have responded well to its concerns over pollution, it fears more accidents will occur.

“There are still some areas of concern. We want to help farmers and contractors protect the environment from loss or spills of dip,” said Mr Penton.

It is the grey areas regarding who takes responsibility for dip disposal that have concerned the EA as well as the siting of the mobile dip on the farm and the management of sheep after dipping.

“Farmers who employ mobile dipping contractors in the north west should expect their contractors to start using these forms and ensure that both parties are clear as to who takes responsibility for each part of the dipping process.

“Any farmer who disposes of sheep dip on his land needs a Ground Water Authorisation, which is granted by the Environment Agency. This authorisation is a Single Payment Scheme cross-compliance condition,” added Mr Penton.