Slurry and silage pollution incident reduction – communications for dairy farmers

Loss of slurry and silage effluent from dairy farms is the most common cause of significant farm pollution incidents in this area. Fish kills, damage to other river life and impacts on water supplies can often result.

In an effort to reduce the number of serious pollution incidents of this nature, the Environment Agency is offering the following advice to dairy farmers.

1)    Ensure you have enough slurry storage. This will not only help to meet legal obligations, but will also reduce any pressure to spread slurry during unsuitable ground or weather conditions. The legal requirement for slurry storage for dairy slurry is a minimum of 4 months storage in non-NVZ areas and a minimum of 5 months storage in NVZ areas.

2)    When and where it is safe to do so, check slurry stores, silage clamps and any other associated infrastructure such as pipes, pumps and hydrants for signs of corrosion and weakness. Employ a structural engineer to check the structural integrity of stores. A lot of stores are getting old and may start to become corroded and weak, so checks and any necessary maintenance are important to prevent any catastrophic failure. Remember this is a safety issue as well as a pollution prevention issue.

3)    Make sure you have good communication with any contractors spreading slurry for you. Agree safe spreading rates, advise them of  land drained areas and no spread areas near watercourses, ditches and water supplies. If you have a risk map, share it with them.

4)    Produce an emergency plan for dealing with any loss of slurry or silage effluent from the farm. Think about potential losses from failure or overflow from containment facilities (tanks, lagoons etc) and potential losses from spreading operations such as burst pipes or other equipment failure. Drainage plans of the farmyard and fields are invaluable in an emergency spillage situation and can massively reduce or prevent any impact on watercourses and water supplies.

The Environment Agency provides advice and guidance to farmers on pollution prevention and compliance with regulations such as NVZ and SSAFO regulations. If you would like to speak to an adviser about help and support on any of the above points, please contact:

Sharon Chisholm for Shropshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire
Tel: 020 302 51692  Email: sharon.chisholm@environment-agency.gov.uk 

Geoff Harper for Staffordshire, Warwickshire and West Midlands
Tel: 020 302 51177  Email: geoff.harper@environment-agency.gov.uk