Farmer fined for polluting East Keswick beck

23 January 2018

A farmer was ordered to pay £5934 in fines and costs by Leeds Magistrates for polluting the beck that flows through East Keswick. John Thackray of New Laithe Farm, Harewood Road was sentenced on January 15th after admitting three offences of failing to manage manure and slurry. 

In a prosecution brought by the Environment Agency, officers discovered pollution in Keswick Beck in February 2016. They found a sewage fungus in the watercourse and traced the fungus upstream to Thackray’s farm.

The court was told that streams of water were seen running from a manure pile downhill into the beck. Sewage was also seen entering the beck from a ditch connected to the farm, and a pipe was discharging a thick black sludge into the beck.

A biological survey found that a two mile stretch of the watercourse had been affected by the fungus. Analysis of the water revealed it contained pesticides toxic to aquatic life. 

Mr Thackray told the Environment Agency that he was struggling to contain surface water on his farm during heavy rain. A water storage lagoon was in use on the farm but it was not constructed to the required standards. At times of heavy rain it had no spare capacity to hold extra water. Subsequent inspections revealed some improvement had been done to improve surface water management. Barn roofs were fitted with new gutters and water drains installed. A new lagoon was also constructed, but by July 2017 the guttering was still incomplete and the lagoon was still not constructed to the required standard.

Iain McDonell, Senior Environment Officer at the Environment Agency, said after the hearing “The Court found the defendant was reckless in not addressing surface water problems that he knew existed on his farm. The result of this was that polluted water ran off into Keswick Beck and had an impact on the water quality and ecology. It is vital that farmers follow existing guidance and bespoke advice given to them by the Environment Agency to ensure that their activities do not have a detrimental impact on the environment. If anyone sees any pollution of this kind, they are urged to report the matter to our incident hotline on 0800 807 060 so we can investigate.’

In mitigation, Mr Thackray told the court that he had made improvements to the farm’s surface drainage since the pollution incidents. He was fined £500 and ordered to pay £5,384 costs, plus a victim surcharge of £50