A SOUTH Pembrokeshire dairy farm, with an annual turnover of £6.5m, was fined nearly £12,000 for polluting a nearby river last March.

Appearing at Haverfordwest magistrates last Thursday, July 5, Hugh James, on behalf of Reynalton-based Langdon Mill Farms Limited entered a guilty plea to, on March 2 of last year, negligently allowing the nearby River Cresswell to be polluted by silage effluent.

This was the second pollution incident in just over a year, Haverfordwest magistrates previously imposing fines and costs totalling £6,450.73 on Langton Mill Farms Limited for causing silage effluent to enter a tributary of Cresswell River on or before January 2016.

Prosecuting on behalf of Natural Resources Wales (NRW), Jon Tarrant said NRW officers had visited the farm following a complaint made by a member of the public about possible pollution of the nearby Cresswell.

Mr Tarrant said the exact root of the “relatively considerable” pollution was not identified, but, the sewage fungus pollution, which had spread as far as 250 metres, had been ongoing for weeks.

He said that, following the previous conviction, the “chronic discharge” should have been noticed.

This fungus was used to trace the pollution back to a silage clamp and effluent tank.

Infrastructure had already been put in place to reduce the chances of such an incident following the previous prosecution, the court heard.

“This isn’t a blip because of rainfall, it must’ve been occurring for some time. There is absolutely no evidence that anything other than this farm contributed to that pollution,” said Mr Tarrant.

Representing Langdon Mill Farms Ltd, Aled Owen said Mr James, his brother David, and their sons, had developed the farm to the large-scale dairy business over many years, and had made costly improvements, above and beyond that requested by NRW, in managing effluent after the previous incident.

“This is not a company that doesn’t have a level of corporate responsibility, both to the shareholders and the environment,” said Mr Owen.

“We’re not denying responsibility; the family are getting to the bottom of what occurred here. There are no issues of fish being killed or animals.

“This is not a company that has been reckless, and certainly not a company deliberately polluting the small brook.

“They exemplify the best of farming enterprise, they are not people who take shortcuts

The court heard from Langdon Farm-born Mr James, who said: “We’ve never had any complaints from locals regarding the river, we’ve never killed any fish.

He said that an estimate of £100,000 spent on improving effluent capacity “wouldn’t touch the sides,” describing Langdon as “one of the best prepared in the county for storage”.

The court heard Langdon Mill Farms Ltd had a turnover of £6.5m 2016-17, but, despite that, had made very little profit after costs were deducted.

Magistrates found Langdon Mill Farms Ltd had been negligent in the pollution, fining the company £9,000, with costs of £2,825, and a Victim of Crime Surcharge of £170, to be paid within three months.

Speaking on behalf of Langdon Mill Farms Ltd after sentencing, Aled Owen said: "Langdon Mill are pleased that the case has been concluded with the court accepting that the farm dealt with all environmental matters at the heart of their farming enterprise.

"Unfortunately, despite extensive investment an unidentified source of pollution, to both Natural Resources Wales and the farm management, entered a small brook near to the farm and had a localised effect.

"The farm has doubled its efforts through various experts and consultants to address all regulatory issues. This is done to continue with the sustainable development of the farm which deals with all environmental issues at the heart of its operation.

"The farm management were pleased to see this recognised at court and throughout the process to receive such significant support from their friends and neighbours."