The advent of The Nitrate Pollution Prevention Regulations (SI2008/2349) which are due to come in force fully in the beginning of 2012 will signal even greater risk of contravention of statutory obligations imposing yet more of a burden on our livestock farmers.  

There are changes afoot to the storage of organic manures in general, which must be stored in a vessel in a covered building (the statute does not state whether this should or should not contain animals at the same time) on an impermeable surface or in the case of solid manure this can be stacked in a free standing heap that doesn’t drain liquid from the material, i.e. on a “Temporary Field Site” (“TFS”).  

The definition of a TFS is quite restricted and must not be located on a field liable to flooding or becoming waterlogged, within 50 metres of a spring, well or borehole or within 10 metres of surface water or a land drain. By themselves these provisions will significantly limit any field that may be used to store muck. However, the Regulations continue that a TFS must not be located in any single position for more than twelve months and must not be located in the same place as an earlier one constructed within the last two years.  

Solid poultry manure that does not have bedding mixed into it and is stored on a TFS must be covered with an impermeable material. This makes sense as the high nitrate content of poultry manure would leach significantly. Section 34 of the Regulations provides details as to the requirements for an occupier of a holding that keeps animals who must provide sufficient storage for all slurry produced on the holding during the storage period which is set at between 1 October and 1 April for pigs and poultry and between 1 October and 1 March for any other animals. The act provides a method for calculating the amount of manure that is likely to be produced from the livestock on the holding and it is stated that the slurry store must have sufficient capacity to hold rainfall washings and other liquid that might enter the “vessel” during the storage period. Storage facilities are not needed for any slurry or poultry manure that is sent off the holding or that is spread on land and has a low run off risk although the Regulations continue that storage facilities for at least one week’s worth of manure must be provided.

As is self evident, a muck heap is fairly visible and will be identified easily by the Environment Agency looking for landowners and farmers in breach of the Regulations. The Environment Agency can find an errant TFS very easily by looking at the farmer’s risk map and then inspecting on the ground. Accordingly, non compliant TFSs adjacent to a public highway or byway are most at risk of incurring the wrath of the Environment Agency and the landowner or farmer being fined or imposed with a sanction varying from restoration, compliance or stop notice through to a fine. The Environmental Civil Sanctions (England) Order 2010 states that the level of the fine is £100 for an individual and £300 for a body corporate. On a positive note, rural businessmen and women may now discuss the ins and outs of their muck heap in polite company simply by using the acronym TFS!