Norfolk NFU chairman ordered to pay £12,000 after a stream was polluted

PUBLISHED: 17:08 20 March 2014 | UPDATED: 17:30 20 March 2014

NFU county chairman Ken Proctor arrives at King's Lynn Magistrates' Court. Picture: Matthew Usher.

NFU county chairman Ken Proctor arrives at King's Lynn Magistrates' Court. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© Archant Norfolk 2014

The county chairman of a farmers’ union has been ordered to pay a five-figure sum after ammonia leaked into a stream from his farm.

Dairy farmer Ken Proctor, 56, of Shipdham, near Dereham, appeared before King’s Lynn magistrates charged with water pollution.

The court heard how Environment Agency officers found “grossly polluting” levels of ammonia in the watercourse close to Proctor’s land, Grange Farm in Shipdham, last summer.

It was also heard how the pollution had made a “significant impact” on the local environment, killing a bullhead fish and several sticklebacks.

Proctor pleaded guilty and was fined £8,000, and ordered to pay £4,000 in prosecution costs.

During today’s court case, it was heard how the spillage had been caused by a leaking pipe.

Proctor, who is the county chairman for the National Farmers’ Union, has a dirty water lagoon and a clean water lagoon on his farm, which is home to 400 cows and has been in his wife’s family since 1929.

At the time, there were three pipes, one which led to the watercourse, another to a ditch and the third to the dirty water lagoon.

It was heard how there was a bung which prevented the dirty water from flowing into the watercourse, but this bung had failed, polluting 6.5-kilometres of the stream.

Prosecuting Miriam said: “There was quite a significant environmental impact in this case. It was foreseeable in that a pipe was directly connected from the lagoon to the watercourse, creating the pathway for that polluting of matter.”

Environment Agency officers discovered the water pollution on June 3. Tests revealed levels of ammonia of up to 88.5mg/l in the stream. When levels of more than 40mg/l are recorded, it is considered to be “grossly polluting”, it was heard.

The court heard how Proctor had previously been cautioned for a similar offence in November 2008 but had since invested £334,000 on the farm’s water-handling system.

Mitigating Deborah Sharples said: “There was no intention of allowing the dirty water to flow into the river, that was a mistake, and Mr Proctor has taken steps immediately to rectify the situation to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Fining Proctor, chairman of the bench Barbara Dennis said: “You were negligent, if you had checked your bung and pump, you wouldn’t be here today.

“It was a significant impact on the environment, you neglected to take appropriate measures to see your equipment was working as it should be and it was foreseeable to see this happen.

“However, it was a short-term situation, you have made a really good effort to take remedial action, you have given a timely guilty plea, it was a mistake rather than a deliberate action, you are of a good character and your efforts to reduce your impact on the environment over the years has been quite considerable.”

Proctor was ordered to pay a total £12,120, including a victim surcharge.

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