A Welsh farmer has been fined over $4,000 for failing to comply with an order to improve his slurry storage, and for causing slurry pollution in two rivers.

Noel Richards, a farmer responsible for the running of Coedmoelon and Rhydolau farms, pleaded guilty to all three offences at Llanelli Magistrates’ Court on Friday, April 22.

In fact, the farmer self-reported one of the incidents to Natural Resources Wales (NRW) according to NRW environment team leader, Matthew Lowe.

“Mr. Richards self-reported one of the slurry incidents to NRW, which was the most appropriate and responsible thing to do to minimise the impact of the pollution on our land and waterways," said Lowe.

“However, I must stress that both incidents could have been prevented had Mr. Richards taken the required steps to adhere to regulations around the safe storage of slurry."

Richards had been issued with a notice to carry out required compliance works to a slurry lagoon at Coed Moelon Farm in 2018, to ensure that it adhered to the required standards of the Water Resources (Control of Pollution) (Silage and Slurry) (Wales) Regulations 2010.

The notice has not been complied with to date.

“We work closely and positively with farmers to help them comply with regulations and minimise the risks of causing agricultural pollution. Where farmers ignore our requests and put people, nature and our natural resources at risk, we will prosecute," added Lowe.

Slurry pollution

In September 2020, the NRW received a report of slurry pollution in the stream running into the Afon Dulais. When an environment officer attended the site, they saw the stream was discoloured and that it had an agricultural odour. The pollution was traced back to a dirty water tank at Rhydlau Farm.

In this instance, Richards was cooperative and the pollution was contained as soon as the source was identified.

Then in December of the same year, Richards called the NRW himself to self-report a pollution incident where slurry entered a tributary of the Afon Gwendraeth Fawr.

Richards explained that they had spread slurry the week before, but that recent rainfall has washed the slurry into the watercourse.

An environment officer again attended the site and found the stream discoloured and with large amounts of foam. This was traced back to a field belonging to Coed Moelon Farm, that had been spread with slurry.

Image: NRW

In total, Richards was ordered to pay £2,153 in fines, a further £2,344 in court costs and a victim surcharge of £190.

“I urge farmers and contractors to be vigilant to help prevent polluting our waterways," added Lowe.

"Carry out regular checks on slurry levels and storage infrastructure. Only spread slurry when conditions are right, for example not spreading at times when rain is forecast over the next 24 hours, when the ground is saturated or when the ground is frozen hard."