Pollution increase sparks reminder to farmers during coronavirus

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is reminding farmers and contractors to spread and store slurry responsibly during the coronavirus pandemic.

The call comes following a spike in reports of ammonia pollution in the last few days, which are believed to be the result of irresponsible slurry spreading. This led to water treatment works needing to be closed for short periods of time. 

NRW continues to respond to these reports, working with partners to identify and stop pollution. Enforcement action will be taken if evidence is gathered to show there has been intent to pollute, or negligence in preventing an impact on the environment or critical infrastructure, such as a drinking water intake. 

Slurry pollution can cause serious damage to the quality of the water supply, stripping it of oxygen, killing fish and other river life. 

Robert Phillips, Environment Team Leader, Natural Resources Wales, said:

“We are following government guidance to do everything we can to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and protect our staff and the communities we serve. 
“That means we are only able to provide a limited operational service carrying out absolutely essential work. Responding to significant reports of pollution is part of that work, but call-outs of this nature are preventable. 
“I urge farmers and contractors to please be mindful when spreading slurry at this time. Think about the impact on the wider environment and the people who have to put themselves and others at risk to attend. 
“Slurry should only be spread to land when ground conditions are suitable. Extensive guidance is available for all farmers and contractors on when, where and how to spread slurry safely and responsibly. This should always be the approach, but we’re issuing an extra reminder to farmers and contractors at this difficult time.” 

Most farmers have a manure management plan which should include a risk map identifying how to safely store slurry and where it is safe to spread livestock manures and parlour washings to avoid causing pollution and killing aquatic life. 

Farmers who use contractors should ensure they are aware of the pollution risks on the farm and use safe application rates and methods. 

NRW is also asking for the public to report inappropriate slurry spreading or signs of slurry pollution as soon as they see it. 

Robert added: 

“We want to work with farmers to make sure they get the most out of the valuable nutrients in their slurry whilst also making sure that no slurry damages the wider environment. 
“The Wales Land Management Forum, which includes NRW, is working with Farming Connect to provide more support and guidance to help advise farmers and contractors. We also have powers to prosecute the minority who continue to ignore the guidance and pollute our waterways. 
“I would also urge the public to be vigilant and report to us immediately if they see any signs of inappropriate slurry spreading or signs of pollution. 
“We all have a role to play in keeping our water clean and healthy.” 

If something does go wrong and slurry or manure has entered - or is at risk of entering a stream or river - farmers and members of the community are asked to report it straight away to NRW on 0300 065 3000. 

The best practice guidance can be found in Chapter 5 of the Code of Good Agricultural Practice is available at https://gov.wales/code-good-agricultural-practice

For further advice on support available through Farming Connect call 0845 600 0813 or visit www.gov.wales/farmingconnect.