Slurry spill results in £8,000 fine for farmer in Scotland

The Locher Water in Renfewshire (image courtesy of wfmillar [CC BY-SA 2.0 license] via Wikimedia Commons).

A renfrewshire farm partnership received a £8,000 fine from SEPA on 7 December, for pollution of the Locher Water on 18 March 2016. The incident involved a discharge of slurry at High Auchensale Farm near Kilbarchan.

The Robert J Carruth partnership pled guilty to one charge of polluting the water environment at Paisley Sheriff Court, as a result of failing to adequately maintain the sluice gates of the farm’s slurry storage tower.

The slurry tower, which is used to store the waste from dairy cows during the winter months, is connected to a concrete reception pit from where material can be taken and spread on adjacent fields as fertiliser. During routine work to spread slurry at High Auchensale Farm, the sluice gates which allow slurry to flow between the tower and reception pit, became jammed open. As a result of this malfunction, approximately 150,000 gallons of slurry escaped onto adjacent fields, with some of the material discharging, uncontrolled, into a field drain and then flowing through an unnamed tributary into the nearby Locher Water.

The farmer notified SEPA of an ongoing incident and, with the assistance of others, made extensive efforts to halt the flow of slurry by trying to block the outlet pipe, digging trenches and forming earth bunds to make lagoons. Vacuum tankers were also used to empty the reception pit and temporary lagoons, however these attempts were only partially successful in stemming the flow.

Upon investigation by SEPA, it was determined that a 1.5km stretch of Locher Water had been affected by the pollution incident, in addition to a small reservoir used as a water supply by local businesses downstream of the farm. Ecological samples found that over 70 fish of different species had been killed and damage had been caused to smaller invertebrates’ species living in the watercourse.

SEPA’s Reporting Officer, said:
“Agricultural slurry is a useful fertiliser but is a highly polluting substance to the water environment and therefore must be stored and managed in the correct manner.”

“The farming partnership of Robert J Carruth failed to ensure that the double sluice gate valves attached to their slurry store were appropriately maintained and suitable for use. This led to the uncontrolled release of slurry, which caused significant environmental impact to the Locher Water and affected businesses downstream.

“SEPA acknowledge that the farm immediately notified us of the incident and took steps to try and limit the impact.

“We would like to remind all farmers to regularly check the operational condition of their slurry towers and sluice gate valves and undertake maintenance as necessary. The cost of replacement of the valves involved were a small fraction of the overall costs of the impact of incident.”

The fine was reduced from £12,000 to £8,000 due to the partnership tendering a guilty plea at the first available opportunity.