Farmer pleads guilty to illegal disposal of sewage

A FRASERBURGH farmer has been fined £2,500 after pleading guilty to disposing of unscreened sewage tank sludge on a field on agricultural land near the Broch.

Walter Watson pled guilty at Peterhead Sheriff Court to disposing of unscreened sewage tank sludge, in particular, sanitary products, plastics and rag materials without the authority of a waste management licence on land at North Park Farm, Lonmay, Fraserburgh.

The matter was investigated by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and a report prepared for the Procurator Fiscal.

In January 2011, SEPA officers visited North Park Farm to carry out an inspection of the licensed waste facility where septic tank contents are stored and treated.

The officers noticed a pile of sewage sludge had been spread on a field at the farm near to an adjacent watercourse, a tributary of the Savoch Burn which runs into the Loch of Strathbeg, a protected National Nature Reserve.

There were large quantities of sewage related waste visible, including papers, sanitary products, plastics and rag materials.

It was apparent the septic tank contents had not been screened before arriving at North Park Farm and the treatment at the facility had not removed this waste before being spread.

Sludge samples were taken from the field and tested. The investigating scientists discovered a low pH reading which led them to conclude that it was suggestive that the sludge had not been treated strictly in accordance with current regulations and Department of the Environment guidance.

Mr Watson was thereafter issued with a statutory notice, requiring him to remove all said papers, sanitary products, plastics and rag materials from the field.

SEPA officers carried out several further site visits and despite the official notice being issued, there still remained a quantity of sewage related litter visible at each visit.

Caroline Simmers, SEPA’s investigating officer, said: “Mr Watson made no attempt to screen the considerable quantity of sewage related litter from the septic tank sludge before spreading it on agricultural land.

“This type of activity is completely unacceptable and undermines the commitment of similar businesses which operate in an environmentally responsible way.

“Sewage litter should, as far as is reasonably practicable, be screened out of sewage sludge to be used on agricultural land.

“Other companies offering septic tank emptying services ensure sewage related litter is disposed of at landfill sites suitably engineered and licensed to take these types of wastes, either separated from the sewage sludge or the whole dewatered septic tank contents if it is not possible to screen.

“As well as being aesthetically displeasing, sewage litter waste can be a significant hazard to wildlife, livestock and human health.

“Mr Watson failed to take these risks into consideration and his prosecution should serve as a strong reminder that practices which do not meet environmental legislation will be punished accordingly.”