A farmer in Leicestershire has been fined over £15,000 for illegally discharging silage effluent into a brook, causing the death of around 80 fish.

Roger Hobill pleaded guilty to said effluent discharge at Leicester Magistrates’ Court on Monday (July 4). He also admitted failing to construct an adequate silo for the storage of silage.

The court was told that Environment Agency officers were first alerted to the incident when Asfordby Fishing Lakes reported the discovery of dead fish.

After a water quality assessment, elevated ammonia levels were discovered, as well as the 80 dead fish, made up of roach, common bream and gudeon.

Distressed fish were also present and were intermittently gasping for air.

Officers then attended nearby Howell Lake where a drop in oxygen levels had been detected. They also visited Welby Brook which was about 1.5km upstream, which led them to Welby Farm and Hobill himself.

Damaged silage clamp

Hobill said that an internal wall of his silage clamp had recently collapsed, which may have resulted in a leak onto the farmyard and into the surface drainage system.

The officers were shown the silage clamp and saw a cracked internal wall.

Silage escaped through the cracks, onto the yard

Slurry runoff from the open cattle pen was also present and a combination of slurry, cattle feed and silage liquor was running downhill into the surface drain.

A small dam had been created, however it was ineffective in stopping the flow.

Water samples showed that the brook was clear and uncontaminated upstream, while downstream the brook was black and had a septic odour.

The brook (black and with a septic colour)

The following day, officers revisited the farm to find that heavy rain had caused further runoff contaminated with silage liquor and manure to run into the surface water drains.

Hobill told the officers that he was aware that wet silage was creating waste runoff, but there was a clear drain that carried it away.

He said that a month or so before the pollution incident he had bunded the drain and was collecting and pumping out the effluent.

After six weeks he believed the runoff had stopped and that the bund was still in place - but never checked. It transpired the bund had moved, possibly by an employee or by the cattle walking over it.

"This pollution case was entirely preventable and shows that our officers will seek out farmers who ignore the regulations," a spokesperson for the Environment Agency said.

"This case has resulted in unacceptable pollution of a local brook, causing significant harm to fish and other aquatic wildlife.