College fined £50,000 for slurry pollution

Plumpton College in Sussex has been fined £50,000 and ordered to pay costs of almost £45,000 after pleading guilty to a pollution incident that killed more than 1,500 fish.

The Environment Agency prosecuted the agricultural college after management failings caused slurry to pollute a nearby stream. 

In November 2016, a head herdsman spread water contaminated with cow slurry as fertiliser onto a field at a farm managed by the college. The volume was many times more than the field could absorb, and the ground was frozen, so much of the water ran off into ditches and land drains, which then flowed into the Plumpton Mill Stream.

The pollution was classified as a Category 1 incident by the Agency. The stream smelled strongly of slurry and the watercourse was visibly brown. Many of the fish that were killed were protected species.

A member of the public reported the incident to the Agency; the college itself did not report it or have a plan for dealing with slurry spillage. The Agency had contacted the college about its management and operations on several occasions since 2011, due to concerns over incidents.

The college admitted that the incident was the result of a mistake by a staff member and that spreading the slurry was wrong as the weather conditions and field were not suitable. The head herdsman accepted a formal caution.

Image credit | iStock
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