Dairy farm fined $25,000 for pollution

04:45, Jul 15 2013
Drumblade Farm pollution
POLLUTION: An irrigator malfunction caused 'severe effluent ponding' on a Hinds farm.

A Canterbury farm has been fined $25,000 after discharging dairy effluent on to land.

Drumblade Farm Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching the Resource Management Act after problems with a travelling irrigator caused ''severe effluent ponding'' on its Hinds dairy farm.

In a written decision, Judge Paul Kellar fined the company $25,000 plus costs.

When an Environment Canterbury compliance officer made a routine visit on April 17 2012, he was informed a nozzle had come off the travelling irrigator.

Upon inspection, he found liquid and solid dairy effluent which had been discharged and was ponding.

A follow-up inspection on April 30 2012 revealed further severe ponding from the travelling irrigator, with depths of up to 80mm.

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The compliance officer was told this was because of a hose disconnect and the resulting pooling caused by the equipment malfunction.

During a further follow-up site visit on May 9, no ponding was observed where the travelling irrigator was operating.

Judge Kellar said the discharge of effluent on each occasion was not expressly allowed by the resource consent because the discharge of effluent in that period did not comply with the consent conditions.

The defendant company had been content to leave responsibility for effluent management to the sharemilker, High Pines Ltd, through a contractual arrangement they had put in place.

However, Environment Canterbury resource management director Kim Drummond said, ''It is not sufficient to rely on compliance obligations being met solely through contractual means.

"Despite any agreement that may apportion liability between owner or consent holder and sharemilker, it is not possible to contract out of responsibilities under the RMA, including consent conditions.''

He said if consent holders left a travelling irrigator unmonitored while it was discharging and there was a failure then they would be responsible for the unlawful discharge.

''Farm owners and consent holders must ensure they have in place supervised and properly managed processes for responsibly dealing with dairy effluent disposal.''

Judge Kellar noted the system operated by Drumblade Farm Ltd at its Hinds dairy farm was similar to that used by 96 per cent of dairy farms in the Canterbury region - using irrigation to dispose of dairy effluent to land.

He noted the company had since taken steps to avoid a repeat of the problem, including construction of a new pond, and having a GPS system fitted to the irrigator that sends an text message to the sharemilker/farm manager if it stops or if there was a fault.

In setting the fine, Judge Kellar said the farm had had a number of non-compliance issues in 2007 and 2008 where effluent ponding was substantiated.

He fined the company $25,000, court costs of $132.89, solicitor's costs of $113 and disbursements of $2990.80 to be paid to ECan.

The Press