A Dorset farmer has been ordered to pay £16,339 in fines and costs for polluting a tributary of the River Divelish with slurry. The case was brought by the Environment Agency.

The pollution was first discovered during a routine inspection of the river on September 20, 2012. Agency officers traced it to Lowbrook Farm, Belchawell near Blandford Forum run by dairy farmer Clifford Yeatman.

Slurry from the defendant’s herd of cows is used to power an anaerobic digester to produce energy. A by-product of this process, ‘digestate’, is stored in the farm’s slurry lagoon along with other farm waste prior to being spread on surrounding land as a fertilizer.

Mr Yeatman said he was aware there had been a spillage of milk parlour washings on September 20, but didn’t realise they had escaped into a nearby stream. The leak was caused by a jammed float switch.

Agency officers witnessed a second pollution on the River Divelish when they returned on September 28. On this occasion, the farm’s slurry lagoon was found be overflowing to the river.

‘Slurry and farm washings can kill fish and other aquatic life by adding toxic pollutants and stripping oxygen from the water. It is therefore important farmers make every effort to ensure these farm wastes do not escape into our rivers and streams,’ said Kerri Attwood for the Environment Agency.

‘Farmers should maximise the use of slurry as fertilizer, ensure that slurry lagoons are empty by the start of winter and also have spare capacity for emergencies. Recent changes to legislation requires farmers to notify the Agency before building new slurry lagoons, silage clamps and fuel stores,’ said Kerri Attwood.

Appearing before Weymouth magistrates, Clifford Yeatman, of Lowbrook Farm, Belchawell, Dorset was fined a total of £10,000 and ordered to pay £6,189 costs after pleading guilty to two offences of causing water pollution. He was also ordered to pay a £150 victim surcharge. The case was heard on July 3.

Yeatman has two previous convictions for water pollution.