A LOCAL farmer has been convicted of causing a major fish kill by letting slurry pollute a scenic Fermanagh river.
Victor Armstrong, Ardlougher Road, Irvinestown was given a conditional discharge at Enniskillen Magistrates’ Court today. The court also ordered Victor Armstrong to pay costs for the fish kill, totalling £2,642.
Mr Armstong’s son Niall Armstrong also appeared at Court, but had the charges against him dropped.
On 5 May 2016, Water Quality Inspectors (WQIs) acting on behalf of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), responded to a report of pig slurry in the Ballycassidy River.
The Inspectors went to a farmyard and discovered that slurry had been flowing over the yard and into the waterway from the direction of a slurry reception tank. In accordance with procedures, the Inspector collected a statutory sample of the slurry as it made its way to the waterway via a black pipe.
The next day inspectors responded to a further report that the river was grey in colour and smelled strongly of pig slurry. They noticed a number of brown trout distressed and dying as the plume flowed downstream.
Colleagues from DAERA Inland Fisheries walked from Drumgarrow Bridge to the confluence with the Ballycassidy River and counted 183 dead brown Trout, 35 Roach and two Pike.
The river was affected for a distance of 10 kilometres.
A sample taken at the time of the incident confirmed that the discharge contained poisonous, noxious or polluting matter which was potentially harmful to fish life in the receiving waterway.
Giving evidence at Enniskillen Magistrate court, Victor Armstrong who said he had been farming his whole life said, “I was spreading slurry and when I left, I closed the valve and made sure it was closed. I was away for about an hour and when I came back it was open and the slurry was flowing all over the place. It was beyond our control and we are more than sorry that it happened.”
The court also heard that a lever was required to open and close the valve, which can be removed but was left in the vehicle.
District Judge Nigel Broderick questioned if the defendant had exercised reasonable care, and whether the defendant could have taken the lever with him to prevent something like this happening.
He then said “I think Armstrong could have taken the lever with him” and convicted the farmer of the offence.
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