Farmers Prosecuted After Catastrophic Collapse of Slurry Store

Farmers Prosecuted After Catastrophic Collapse of Slurry Store

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A family farm business at Rhydsais Farm in Talgarreg, Ceredigion has been found guilty of an environmental crime after the catastrophic collapse of their slurry store polluted at least 12km of waterways.

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) prosecuted Rhydsais Cyf after the farm’s slurry store collapsed on February 16, 2022, which released between 60,000 and 70,000 gallons of slurry into an unnamed tributary of the Afon Clettwr Fach. Water sample analysis from the subsequent investigation showed significant pollution levels extending from Rhydsais Farm to the confluence of the Afon Clettwr with the Afon Teifi, 12km away.

The unnamed tributary flows into the Afon Clettwr Fach, which flows into the Afon Clettwr, which eventually flows into the Afon Teifi.

The collapse of the slurry store was initially reported to NRW by one of the directors of Rhydsais Cyf, and subsequent pollution reports were made to NRW by members of the public downstream of the farm.

Natural Resources Wales environment officers were diverted from other duties to investigate the incident on the farm and to assess the downstream impact.

On the day of the incident, the river downstream was found to be heavily discoloured and covered in foam, with a strong odour of slurry.

Six dead fish were discovered in the Afon Clettwr Fach the day after the incident. This likely underestimates the total fish kill as the pollution had caused poor visibility, and the rivers were in high flow following rain.

A day after the incident, Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water alerted NRW to unusually high levels of ammonia detected at the Llechryd Water Treatment Works abstraction point which supplies water to properties in south Ceredigion. The abstraction point was promptly closed until ammonia levels had dropped. The elevated level of ammonia may have been due to the Rhydsais slurry flowing through.

During the investigation, it was revealed that the collapsed slurry store had been in place since the 1970s and had not received any formal maintenance apart from visual inspections in the past decade. NRW contended in court that the pollution was caused by the slurry store being beyond its lifespan and had not been maintained properly.

Rhydsais Cyf was found guilty of an offence under the Environmental Permitting (England & Wales) Regulations 2016.

They were ordered to pay a total of £13,035. This included a £5,000 fine, a victim surcharge of £190 and £7,845 towards NRW’s costs of bringing the prosecution.

Dr. Carol Fielding, Team Leader of the Ceredigion Environment Team, emphasized the severity of the environmental damage:

“The impact of this incident was felt well beyond the stream that the slurry entered. It damaged water quality and local wildlife within the catchment of the Afon Teifi.

“Every farmer has a duty to ensure their slurry stores are structurally sound to prevent such disasters. We will not hesitate to take enforcement action – including prosecution – when we have evidence of serious environmental breaches.

“We regulate and work with farmers to avoid damage to the environment and we encourage them to contact us or Farming Connect for advice and support.”

Advice for farmers is available on the NRW website: https://naturalresources.wales/guidance-and-advice/business-sectors/farming/?lang=en.

Support for farmers is available via Farming Connect: https://businesswales.gov.wales/farmingconnect/

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Team @ AberdareOnline

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