Somerset farm polluted stream after failing to make improvements


F.A.W. Bakers Kingston Farm Ltd of Rushywood Farm, Haselbury, Plucknett, near Crewkerne was this week fined a total of £16,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3,220 by Taunton Magistrates after admitting two charges related to causing pollution.

In the case brought by the Environment Agency, the court heard that officers from the Agency were called to Small Brook in February 2022 after receiving a report of sewage fungus in the watercourse.  Field tests and samples confirmed a significant drop in water quality.

The officers traced the source of the pollution to a leaking silage clamp on farmer Neil Baker’s land at Rushywood Farm. Silage effluent was leaking out from a large silage clamp, pooling in the field and overflowing into the ditch. Sewage fungal growth was noted on the entire length of the Small Brook, a stretch of over 800m, until its confluence with the larger Broad River.

Neil Baker initially refused to engage with the officers when they spoke to him and claimed not to know where the pollution in the ditch came from.  Once the source was pointed out he agreed to block the ditch and redirect the polluting effluent to a temporary lagoon.

The court heard that the Environment Agency had specifically highlighted the silage making areas as non-compliant with regulations during a routine farm inspection in 2019. Advice was given relating to the minimum construction standards required to reduce pollution risk and explained the regulations. A farm inspection report by the officer set out the actions needed in order to avoid a pollution incident, such as the one to the Small Brook, occurring.

In a statement sent to the Environment Agency, the company admitted responsibility for the pollution coming from the silage clamp and that it had not notified the Agency in advance of starting construction of one of the silage clamps as required under the Silage, Slurry and Agricultural Fuel Oil regulations (SSAFO). The company also admitted it had not made the improvements to drainage from the silage clamp recommended and agreed in 2019. The company set out remediation actions taken at the time of the pollution incident to stop effluent entering the watercourse and how they had since made the main silage clamp SSAFO compliant.

Senior Environment Agency officer, Dave Womack, said: “The company had been given clear advice and guidance on what they needed to do to improve the silage making areas comply with regulations that have been in place for over 30 years. If the new silage clamp had been installed with perimeter effluent channels on all sides, or if the Agency had been notified of its construction, as required by law, this pollution event could easily have been prevented. It was reckless to ignore the construction standards and the advice given previously.  

“Anyone planning to build new silage or slurry facilities must consult with the Environment Agency prior to starting construction. We are here to help ensure the correct construction standards are followed and that new facilities are located a minimum of 10m from watercourses, which will minimise the risk of pollution occurring.”

  1. On and before the 9 February 2022, you did cause an unpermitted water discharge activity, namely the discharge of poisonous, noxious or polluting matter from Rushywood Farm, Haselbury, Plucknett, Crewkerne, Somerset, into inland fresh waters, Contrary to Regulations 12(1)(b) and Regulation 38(1)(a) of the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016.
  2. On and before the 9 February 2022 at Rushywood Farm, Haselbury, Plucknett, Crewkerne, Somerset you failed to ensure that silage was stored in accordance with Regulation 3(1) of the Water Resources (Control of Pollution) (Silage, Slurry and Agricultural Fuel Oil) (England) Regulations 2010, Contrary to Regulation 10(1) of the Water Resources (Control of Pollution) (Silage, Slurry and Agricultural Fuel Oil) (England) Regulations 2010.

Source: Environment Agency 8th February 2024