Farmers risk pollution and fines unless they check silage clamps for leaks, says insurer Lycetts

Agricultural insurers have urged farmers to check their silage clamps are not leaching pollutants in

Agricultural insurers have urged farmers to check their silage clamps are not leaching pollutants into the ground which could run off into rivers and waterways. Picture: Lycetts. - Credit: Lycetts

Farmers risk hefty fines unless they check their silage clamps to ensure toxic run-off is not polluting East Anglia's waterways, warned an agricultural insurance expert.

Charles Foster of farm insurance broker Lycetts.

Charles Foster of farm insurance broker Lycetts. - Credit: Lycetts

Charles Foster, of insurance broker Lycetts, said farmers must be aware of the potential environmental risks this summer while making winter animal fodder from grass and maize crops, by fermenting them into silage in plastic-covered clamps.

Mr Foster, who is based at the firm's Norfolk office in Fakenham, fears too many farmers haven't checked their silage clamps are airtight and leach-free because they aren't fully aware of the dangers of poor silage storage.

He said if effluent gets into waterways it can have a devastating impact on fish, wildlife and ecosystems as it could be up to 200 times more toxic than untreated sewage.

'Silage effluent is extraordinarily toxic – so the damage it can cause to watercourse eco-systems is profound,' he said.

'Once the effluent is in the ground and reaches a watercourse, it is very difficult to contain and it can find its way into springs, wells and boreholes and public water supplies which will require immediate action by an Environment Agency-approved contractor.

'Farmers must therefore make every effort to ensure their clamps are well maintained, and that includes all pipes and tanks as well.'

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Mr Foster emphasised that while insurance can cover clean-up operations, it is not available for the substantial fines that could result from Environment Agency prosecutions if protected watercourses after polluted due to failure to store silage properly.

'Farmers have many HSE (Health and Safety Executive) and Environment Agency standards to comply with and must keep ahead of the game to avoid these fines, which remain uninsured,' he said.

'It will not only allow them to rest easy in the knowledge they are fully compliant with working practices and not polluting the environment but they won't suffer an unexpected financial hit if things go wrong.'