Pig farmer fined for polluting river

A Suffolk pig farmer has been forced to pay over £7,000 after admitting responsibility for the pollution of a River Deben tributary.

Leonard Munter was fined £3,500 and ordered to pay full costs of £3,512 after Bury St Edmunds Magistrates' Court found him guilty of polluting the tributary at Aspall Green, Suffolk, last summer.

The case was brought to court by the Environment Agency, which was called in to investigate the stream following reports that it was turning black. After testing the river and finding it to have high levels of ammonia, the investigating officer Ben Marshall traced the pollution upstream to Munter's farm. He noticed that there were several large pools of black liquid in the field between the ditch and the muck pad, and concluded that heavy rainfall from the day before had washed through the muck heap.

In an interview under caution, Munter said he had not noticed any pollution up until the Environment Agency visit and had seen kingfishers and sticklebacks in the ditch since. He also said he was surprised there was effluent, as a shingle ditch to collect waste had been placed around the building some years before.

Marshall later returned to the site with senior Environment Agency officer Rebecca Mullins, but they found no evidence of a shingle-filled trench running alongside the muck pad. They traced drains serving the contaminated water area that contained effluent from the muck pad to the clean surface water system and ultimately the ditch.

Anne-Lise McDonald told the court that the discharge had been "extremely polluting". There is a Code of Good Agricultural Practice for the Protection of Water, and this was not followed, as the dirty water was not collected safely, she said.

Deborah Sharples, solicitor for Munter said that since the incident he had reviewed his drainage system and taken steps to prevent any repeat occurrence.

Following the hearing, Marshall said: "This discharge was grossly polluting. People should take care not to allow such polluting discharges and ensure they follow relevant codes of practice."