Farmer fined for ‘shocking’ incident of water pollution

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A District Judge has described photographs of a water pollution incident in south Derry as “shocking.”

Before the court was farmer Eric Scott Thom, from Quarry Road, Desertmartin, who was fined £750 and ordered to pay a £15 offender levy.

Judge Oonagh Mullan told Scott that the incident should never have happened and he should have taken steps sooner to prevent “poisonous polluting matter” from entering the waterway.

Magherafelt Magistrates Court heard that an inspection of the Grange waterway, part of the Moyola River system, revealed a 900 metre stretch had been affected but no fish were killed.

Counsel prosecuting said on June 23 2017, a water quality inspector acting on behalf of the Environment Agency examined an unnamed tributary of the Grange Water and observed grey fungus on the water bed and an agricultural odour of silage was detected.

The inspector discovered silage effluent flowing into the inspection tank from an open field drain, which was covered in white fungus, counsel said.

Continuing, he said the inspector examined the silage clamps where he discovered silage effluent flowing across the concrete and discharging to the silage effluent tank.

Silage effluent was observed flowing down an embankment, before entering an open field drain, the lawyer went on.

The liquid in the open field drain was orange in colour with a strong smell of silage effluent, he said.

Further inspections revealed a black drainage pipe actively discharging orange liquid to the open field drain. Silage effluent was evident back to the inspection tank.

He explained that in accordance with procedures, a statutory sample of the active discharge was collected from the inspection chamber.

The inspector estimated the rate of discharge as approximately two litres per minute. “The sample of the discharge was analysed and found to contain poisonous, noxious, or polluting matter which was potentially harmful to fish life in the receiving waterway,” he said.

“Effluents of this nature enrich fungus coverage on the bed of the watercourse which may lead to the destruction of fish spawning sites, as well as starving river invertebrates, on which fish feed, of oxygen,” counsel added.

Thom, who was not professionally represented, told the court he has spent about £4,500 re-concreting the silage pit to ensure it never happened again.

He said 2017 was a wet year and this had caused overflowing of the silage pit which did not get to the inspection tank.

Thom said there have been no issues since then.

Imposing the penalties, Judge Mullan said just looking at the photographs showed how serious the pollution had been.