A Somerset farmer has been fined and ordered to pay costs totalling nearly £5,000 after silage effluent polluted the Fivehead river close to his farm.

44-year-old Daniel Macey of Underhill Farm, Staple Fitzpaine, near Taunton, was ordered to pay a total of £4,821.21 in fines and costs after he admitted causing pollution to enter the river.

Taunton magistrates heard that officers from the Environment Agency went to the Fivehead river in June 2022 following a report of pollution by a member of the public.

A water sample had “significant discolouration and an unpleasant odour” while monitoring equipment showed dissolved oxygen levels of below 12%.

An unpolluted watercourse would be expected to have oxygen levels above 70%.

The attending officers traced the source of the pollution to Underhill Farm, where they spoke to Macey, who said he had an issue with a silage clamp approximately four days earlier.

The clamp had been overfilled with grass and silage effluent had bypassed the front drainage and discharged into a piped ditch and then down to the Fivehead river.

He added that the reception tank for the silage clamp had been emptied a number of times to prevent further effluent reaching the river.

Analysis of the effluent showed it was approximately six times more polluting than untreated human sewage. Upstream of the farm no evidence of pollution was found.

‘Environmental harm’

Following the sentencing, Environment Agency investigating officer Kristian Steward said the case is an example of where a pollution incident could have been avoided and “environmental harm prevented”.

“For over 30 years regulations have required silage clamps to have perimeter drainage channels to allow any silage effluent to be properly collected, stored and safely spread to land.

“By overfilling the silage clamp the perimeter drainage system was ineffectual which, in this case, led to a discharge of highly polluting effluent to a watercourse.

“The issue was made worse by Mr Macey failing to contact the Environment Agency when first aware of the incident.

“If we had been informed immediately we could have given advice on techniques available for the storage of any excess silage as well as advising on how to minimise any impact on the environment.”