Fish died as the level of oxygen fell in Terrington Drain at Stow Bridge, Norfolk when a farmer allowed liquid waste to get into the water.


James Henry Clayton Flint who runs Bodgers Farm near Stowbridge was away on holiday when the pollution happened but had not left proper instructions with his farm contractor for the storage and spreading of the waste on his land.


King’s Lynn Magistrates’ Court today (Thurs) fined him £2,000 and ordered him to pay full Environment Agency costs of £3,290 for causing the pollution which took 6-8 weeks to clear.


Flint took solid and liquid wastes from various vegetable processing companies and either fed the waste to his livestock or put it on his land. This should have been done by using a low rate spray irrigator over the whole field but the liquid was instead just pumped through a pipe from the storage lagoon, onto a farm track known as Black Drove.


The liquid waste formed pools on and around the farm track and then, by force of gravity, ran along the field into a farm ditch and then on into the Terrington drain, a tributary of the Common Lode drain.


Several dead fish were seen in the drain on 14 September and reported to the Environment Agency and together with Internal Drainage Board (IDB) staff, officers traced the source of the pollution to the farm.


As well as liquid running along the track, they also saw numerous heaps of rotting waste onions, carrots and potatoes lying around and frothy liquid waste stored in a large lagoon from which it was being pumped out.


A farm contractor switched off the pump and IDB staff dammed The Terrington Drain, and pumped polluted water back up into the upper section of the Drain. The Environment Agency also required  Flint to dam the farm ditch to prevent the polluting discharge from continuing.


Water tests showed that the organic waste in the water had significantly lowered the level of oxygen resulting in the deaths of fish and invertebrates. A level of 0% dissolved oxygen was recorded in several places in Terrington Drain. Normal levels did not return to the water until early November.


The effect of the organic waste on the water’s oxygen levels was twice as damaging as untreated sewage would have been.


Environment Agency officer David Batterham told Flint that in his opinion the excessive application of organic waste to the farm land as a whole was causing pollution.


Flint admitted that he had left his farm contractor very few specific instructions and accepted responsibility for the incident. He said he would stop taking waste onto the farm in the future and would instead join the Countryside Stewardship Scheme.


The Environment Agency told magistrates that Flint had taken on to the farm far more organic waste than could be properly dealt with at a time of year when rainwater was likely to be filling the lagoon and waterlogging the fields.


As a result an unknown number of fish and aquatic organisms were killed.


Flint pleaded guilty to: On or about 15 September 2005 caused poisonous, noxious or polluting matter to enter controlled waters, namely the Terrington Drain a tributary of the Common Lode at Stowbridge, contrary to section 85(1) and section 85(6) Water  Resources  Act 1991


After the hearing Environment Agency officer Helen Blower said: ‘Organic liquid waste can be just as  polluting as crude sewage because it uses up the dissolved oxygen in the water when it breaks down.


‘Businesses which use this type of waste need to make sure that it is stored and applied correctly and they are in control of it at all times, because it can be polluting in the wrong environment. 


‘This case demonstrates exactly what can happen when that control is not maintained.’