A FARMER has been made to pay £4,813 in fines and costs for two separate incidents that polluted the Wecha Brook, a tributary of the River Usk, last year.

Brian Parry of Ton Farm,  between Raglan and Llandenny, pleaded guilty to two charges under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016 Act to causing a water discharge activity, namely the discharge of poisonous, noxious or polluting matter, namely slurry and milking parlour washings to an inland freshwater.

Cwmbran Magistrates Court heard on Thursday, May 9, that officers from Natural Resources Wales (NRW) first visited Ton Farm on January 19, 2023.

They found slurry spilling over the top of one of the earth bank slurry lagoons and flowing across a field and into a tributary of the Wecha Brook.

Samples taken and analysed in NRW’s laboratory in Swansea showed significant levels of ammonia and suspended solids present in the watercourse.

This can have a negative impact on fish and other invertebrates, clogging their gills and reducing light penetration in the water, the court was told.

When the problem was highlighted to Mr Parry, immediate steps were taken to stop the discharge and remove the slurry from the earth bank slurry store.

On September 14, officers from NRW visited the site again, following a separate report of suspected pollution to the Wecha Brook.

They found that a drain leading from the milk parlour had become blocked, causing parlour washings and milk to overspill into a surface water drain, which discharged to a tributary of the brook.

At the point where the drain discharged, the white discolouration was clearly visible and grey and sewage fungus was covering the bed of the brook.   

Samples taken by officers showed that the pollutants had an impact on the macroinvertebrates in the watercourse for at least 800m and potentially up to 2.4km downstream.

Milk is a highly polluting substance, magistrates heard. Bacteria in a watercourse will feed on the milk, using up all the oxygen, which would otherwise be used by fish and other animals living in the watercourse. 

Peter Jones, Environment Officer for Natural Resources Wales said: “These pollution incidents could have had a devastating impact on the Wecha Brook and the wider Olway Brook catchment leading to poor water quality and a decline in the ecology of the watercourse.

“Slurry is high in ammonia which is toxic to aquatic life and can cause fish kills. The excess nutrients can also trigger algae blooms which impact water quality and can lead to the decline in the amenity value of our inland water courses.

“This incident at Mr Parry’s property was avoidable and should never have happened. 

“We recognise that sometimes things do go wrong, but we urge farmers that if they know they have caused pollution, to report it to us at NRW immediately by calling 0300 065 3000. The sooner we know about it, the sooner we can work with them to try and reduce the impact on the environment."

Mr Parry was fined £371 and ordered to pay costs amounting to £4,442.

Mr Parry has previously been prosecuted by the NRW for environmental offences in 2010 and 2014 for discharging slurry to watercourse respectively, receiving fines and costs of £2,258 in 2010 and £4,098 in 2014.

To report a pollution incident call NRW’s 24-hour incident hotline on 0300 065 3000 or visit NRW's Report an Incident page.