Planning Portal

Sam Foster Proposes Greater Control Over Farm Pollution

Published on Thu, 26 Jul 2001
Farms are the largest single cause of pollution of Northern Ireland’s waterways.
This was the message given today by Environment Minister, Sam Foster MLA, as he published proposals for regulations to give the DOE strengthened powers to protect waterways from farm pollution.
The regulations will cover the storage of three types of potentially polluting materials held on farms – silage, slurry and agricultural fuel oil. Improvements in storage arrangements will be sought in two main ways:
  1. by setting minimum standards for the construction of new storage facilities for silage, slurry and fuel oil on farms;
  2. by giving the DOE inspection powers to visit farms with such storage facilities to see whether they represent a risk of pollution to neighbouring waterways and, if they do, to require remedial works to be done to remove the threat.
Setting the context for the new powers, the Minister explained: "Silage effluent and livestock slurry are highly polluting materials. They cause a rapid reduction in the oxygen level in water and, if they escape to a waterway, can cause fish kills and the destruction of invertebrates on which fish, birds and other predators feed. Oil also causes serious pollution if released to a waterway. Last year, in Northern Ireland farm pollution accounted for 31% of total pollution incidents. Silage, slurry and fuel oil were the sources of 77% of farm pollution events."
Mr Foster added that he was looking forward to improvements to those experienced in Great Britain where similar regulations were introduced in 1991:
"As the consultation paper demonstrates, agriculture pollution incidents in England and Wales in 1998 were down to some 25% of 1987 levels for silage and slurry. The equivalent regulations there have been a significant part of that improvement. I expect these regulations to have the same beneficial effect in Northern Ireland."
The Minister continued by acknowledging the implications of the regulations for a hard-pressed farming industry:
"In implementing the regulations, my officials will endeavour to work in partnership with the farming industry and with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. In this way we will seek to minimise any additional burden on the industry in these difficult times.
"It is nevertheless in everyone’s interests to give better protection to our waterways. High standards of water quality will increase the attractiveness of our rural areas as centres of tourism, recreation and development. This will help develop a diversified rural economy, and assist in the development of a sustainable relationship between agriculture and the environment."
Mr Foster concluded by emphasising his wish to give farmers and their representatives time to consider the proposals:
"I recognise the difficulties which the foot-and-mouth crisis has created for the industry in engaging in collective consideration and discussion of issues. I have therefore provided an extended consultation period which will not now end until 30 November. I have taken this step to give all those with an interest in these important regulatory proposals a full opportunity to consider them in detail, and to respond to my Department with any points of clarification or concern."

Notes to Editors

Consultation on The Control Of Pollution (Silage, Slurry and Agricultural Fuel Oil) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2002 will end on 30 November 2001.
For further information please contact Philip Maguire DOE Press Office Tel 028 9054 0013
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