huntham January

Farmer fined for second time for polluting watercourse

STOKE St Gregory farmer Ben Hembrow has been ordered to pay £11,000 for polluting a watercourse with slurry in three separate incidents for the second time in five years.

Hembrow, of Huntham Farm, pleaded guilty to polluting a watercourse, a tributary of Sedgemoor Old Rhyne, three times.

A short distance downstream the watercourse enters the West Sedgemoor Site of Special Scientific, the Somerset Levels and Moors Special Protection Area and RAMSAR site.

The case was heard at Taunton Magistrates’ Court when the 33-year-old was ordered to pay the Environment Agency costs of £9,567, fines totalling £1,689 and a victim surcharge of £168.

Low oxygen levels

On June 19, 2019, following a report of low dissolved oxygen levels on the Sedgemoor Old Rhyne, Environment Officers found a tributary polluted with slurry.

They traced the pollution back to Huntham 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, polluting more than 1.5 kilometres.

A week later, although the farmer had taken action to try and prevent further pollution, slurry was still visible on the bed of the watercourse.

On October 29, 2019, Environment Officers again attended a report of pollution to the same tributary of the Sedgemoor Old Rhyne. Their investigations found a surface water drain discharging to the tributary, and using dye tracing confirmed the drain was contaminated with run off from from dirty yards.

On January 30, 2020, following reports of further 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.

Previous offence

In 2016 Hembrow was found guilty of polluting this same tributary of the Sedgemoor Old Rhyne.

Jo Masters, of the Environment Agency, said: “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, protect the environment, and ensure they are compliant with the regulations.

“If you are concerned about pollution to water or land, contact our 24-hour incident line on 0800-807060.”

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