A reminder of the severe penalties farm pollution can incur has been issued by agricultural insurers, Farmers and Mercantile.
Matt McWhirter of the company’s Scottish office has warned that, while insurance may cover the cost of clean-ups, it does not cover the cost of fines imposed when farmers don’t comply with the law.
Official figures from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) have revealed that 1,649 incidents of farm pollution occurred across the country in the past decade, and Mr McWhirter is worried too many farmers are unaware of how destructive farm pollution can be to the environment – or the severe penalties if prosecuted.
“What many farmers don’t realise is they could be slapped with unlimited fines, or up to five years in prison, if found responsible for a pollution breach.”
Many of the pollution incidents relate to water pollution from slurry, soil and chemicals, and Mr McWhirter appealed to farmers to ensure their knowledge of environmental legislation is up-to-date and that they closely follow guidance from Sepa.
“Risk assessments should be conducted, such as identifying low-lying areas and waterways vulnerable to effluent run-off, and checks should be routinely carried out, from ensuring silage clamps and slurry containers are sound and secure to examining nearby waterways for signs of pollution,” he said.
“Contingency plans should be put in place, in preparation for every eventuality, and all workers should be made aware of these. If there is a pollution incident, suspected or confirmed, Sepa should be contacted immediately, followed by the insurance company.
“It is worth bearing in mind that prevention not only provides peace of mind but may in the future reap benefits, if Sepa realises its objectives to protect the environment for future generations.”