Stoke St Gregory farmer fined
We have given a lot of coverage to the issue of pollution on the Levels and Moors RAMSAR site (pictured). The area has three times the permitted phosphate levels, according to Natural England. The two main causes being sewage spills and dairy farming. New developments across much of Somerset have been put on hold until a suitable solution can be found. But part of the problem of pollution in the waterways around the levels is also down to farms too.
A recent prosecution by the Environment Agency (EA) highlights the issue. Today they announced that Stoke St Gregory farmer Ben Hembrow has been ordered to pay £11,000 in fines. This was for polluting a watercourse with slurry. Nor was it a one off incident, but 3 separate incidents over 2 years. Hembrow pleaded guilty to polluting a watercourse, a tributary of Sedgemoor Old Rhyne. A short distance downstream the watercourse enters the West Sedgemoor Site of Special Scientific Interest. Part of the Somerset Levels and Moors Special Protection Area and RAMSAR site.
The EA noted the three incidents as follows:
On 19 June 2019, the EA received reports of low dissolved oxygen levels on the Sedgemoor Old Rhyne. Environment Officers found a tributary polluted with slurry. They traced the pollution back to Hembrow’s Farm, where a slurry lagoon had overtopped. Slurry had run across a farm track, collected in the orchard, and made its way to the watercourse. More than 1.5 kilometres of the waterway was polluted.
On 29 October 2019, Environment Officers again attended a report of pollution to the same tributary. Their investigations found a surface water drain discharging to the tributary. They used dye tracing to confirm the drain was contaminated with run off from from dirty yards.
On 30 January 2020 there were further reports of pollution to the tributary of the Sedgemoor Old Rhyne. Environment Officers found the tributary polluted with slurry due to slurry spreading activity on nearby fields. Slurry had been applied at a rate which caused run off in to the ditch.
The EA also noted that back in 2016 Hembrow had been found guilty again. Also for polluting this same tributary of the Sedgemoor Old Rhyne. Speaking for the EA, Jo Masters, noted: “It was disappointing to find continual pollution from Huntham Farm following a previous prosecution in 2016. We always strive to work with farmers to reduce the risk of pollution. To protect the environment, and ensure they are compliant with the regulations.”