A farmer in Co Monaghan has been fined €400 and ordered to pay more than €5,000 in costs and expenses for allowing a highly polluting liquid to enter a local river.
Following a prosecution taken by Inland Fisheries Ireland, Thomas McEnaney, a farmer from Ardagh in Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, pleaded guilty to a breach of the Fisheries Act for allowing silage effluent to enter a watercourse.
Silage effluent can kill fish and can contaminate wells if not collected.
At Carrickmacross District Court on May 23rd, Judge Raymond Finnegan ordered Mr McEnaney to pay a fine of €400 and an additional €5,273.15 for costs and expenses.
Ailish Keane, a senior fisheries environmental officer with Inland Fisheries Ireland, gave evidence that the silage pit was not fit for purpose when it was inspected as effluent was escaping through a surface water system and into an open watercourse.
The effluent subsequently polluted a tributary of the Annalee River in the Erne River catchment, according to water samples taken by Inland Fisheries Ireland.
Inland Fisheries Ireland is now appealing to the farming and agricultural community to ensure that silage pits are fit for purpose and are regularly checked whilst in use to prevent accidental runoff to rivers and lakes.
“Good water quality status in our rivers and lakes is vital for the preservation of healthy fish stocks and the aquatic habitat,” said Dr Milton Matthews, director of the North West River Basin District with Inland Fisheries Ireland.
“Silage effluent is a highly polluting substance which can have severe and long-term impacts to aquatic ecosystems due to de-oxygenation and nutrient enrichment. Streams, rivers and lakes are particularly prone to any silage effluent discharges which may occur during the summer months when water levels are low which can result in major fish kill events,” Dr Matthews said.
Regular inspection and maintenance of silage pits and slurry storage facilities was “essential to ensure that accidental leaks or overflows are prevented.”
Members of the public who wish to report suspected cases of water pollution are encouraged to telephone Inland Fisheries Ireland’s confidential hotline, which is 0818 347424. The 24-hour hotline is open seven days a week.
Teagasc, the agriculture and food development authority, has a range of initiatives in place to help the farming community target the improvement of water quality. Further information is available on their website.