Updated Jun 1, 2022

Farm company prosecuted for polluting local watercourse

On 25 May 2022 Springhill Farms (Pershore) Limited pleaded guilty to:

  • the illegal discharge of anaerobic digestate and sugar beet washings into the local watercourse; and
  • failure to comply with the Nitrate Pollution Prevention Regulations SI 2015/668, having allowed 2.5 times the limit to be spread onto land.

The company was fined £120,000 and ordered to pay costs of £28,125.19.

Environment Agency officers were first alerted to the situation in February 2018 when members of the public discovered dead fish in Piddle Brook near Redditch. An investigation discovered a faulty pipe had started to discharge anaerobic digestate into the watercourse from nearby Rotherdale Farm, which is run by the company.

Officers were told that the company used a lagoon to store digestate and used an underground pump system to spread liquid as a fertiliser. Around 220 dead fish were discovered in Piddle Brook, and another 100 at a marina further down the watercourse.

Farm employees said they did not maintain records of the volumes in the lagoon and had no maintenance record of the lagoon or pipework.

In May 2018 another offence was recorded when company officials notified the Environment Agency that foam had been reported in Piddle Brook. An investigation revealed that sugar beet discharge, being used to irrigate a field, had started to spill into the watercourse from a faulty pipe.

The Nitrate Pollution Prevention Regulations SI 2015/668 aim to limit the amount of nitrogen used on land in an effort to prevent the pollution of ground and surface waters. The initial investigation had prompted the Environment Agency to ask the company for levels of nitrates used on the farm.

Although the company stated there was no nitrogen fertiliser plan in accordance with the Nitrate Pollution Prevention Regulations SI 2015/668, it was discovered that 19 fields had been treated with amounts of nitrogen that exceeded the 250 kilogram/hectare limit.

A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said that they always try to work with farmers to reduce the risk of pollution, protect the environment and ensure farmers are compliant with the 2015 Regulations, but if there is evidence of serious pollution they will pursue the offenders and take enforcement action.

"We expect much better from such a large and experienced farming business, both for the environment and the local community".