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Farm ordered to pay £6,000 after polluting stream with slurry

The company, Bycott Farms Ltd, of Halberton, appeared before Exeter Magistrates where it admitted 2 charges. The charges related to polluting a watercourse and disposal of controlled waste in a manner likely to cause environmental pollution or harm to human health. It was fined a total of £4,300 and ordered to pay costs totalling £1,765, plus a victim surcharge of £190. 

The court heard that investigating officers from the Environment Agency found that a ditch leading to a tributary of the Spratford stream was polluted. They traced the pollution to a pipe discharging into the ditch and also dirty water flowing across a nearby field. 

The officers met with farm owners, father and son Stephen and Tom Dibble. Stephen Dibble confirmed that water from the yards between the cattle sheds drained to the pipe seen by the officers. Water contaminated with slurry was running into surface water drains connected with the pipe discharging to the stream. Slurry was also running off the yard and mixing with effluent from an improperly constructed silage clamp. Subsequently flowing several hundred metres across land into the water course.

Officers returned the following day, but found contaminated water was still running into the ditch. Further investigations 2 months later found polluted water flowing into the ditch. Thick sewage fungus was visible in the watercourse for more than 2 kilometres downstream. There was also evidence of burning of controlled waste at the farm, including plastics, paint tins, and a medical sharps bin.  

During an interview with the Environment Agency, Stephen Dibble, director of the company, said the dairy herd had increased in size in recent years to over 1,000 cows. He did not think he needed to notify the Agency of increased silage clamp facilities. He accepted that slurry and silage effluent was running into the ditch from the clamp and the yard. He also accepted that routine checks for problems with infrastructure that could cause pollution were not carried out and reluctantly agreed that waste was being burnt. 

In handing down the sentence, District Judge Smith said £900,000 had since been spent on infrastructure by the company as a result of this case.

Mischka Hewins for the Environment Agency said following the case:

This is an example of a farm causing pollution to our rivers. The farm owners failed to take action to stop the pollution even when it had been brought to their attention. We hope the fine issued by the court will serve as a warning to others to ensure their farms are not damaging the environment.

Editors’ notes 

Bycott Farms Ltd was charged with: 

Between the 25 October 2021 and 20 December 2021 you did cause an unpermitted water discharge activity, namely the discharge of poisonous, noxious or polluting matter from Bycott Farm, Halberton, Tiverton, Devon, EX16 7AG into inland fresh waters, contrary to Regulations 12(1)(b) and Regulation 38(1)(a) of the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016.

On and before the 29 October 2021 at Bycott Farm, Halberton, Tiverton, Devon, EX16 7AG you failed to ensure that slurry was stored in accordance with Regulation 4(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.

On and before the 20 December 2021 you, Bycott Farms Ltd, disposed of controlled waste, namely mixed domestic, agricultural, plastic, wood, building, medical waste, and a dead sheep by burning in a manner likely to cause pollution of the Environment or harm to human health, contrary to Section 33(1)(c) and (6) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 as amended.

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