A Magherafelt farmer whose loose valve on a slurry tank caused the death of over 800 fish when it leaked into a local waterway, has been told by a judge to ‘keep an eye on things.’
Robert Duncan (58) of Ballymoghan Road, appeared before the town’s Magistrates’ Court this morning charged with pollution of a waterway.
The court was told that pollution to Coppies Burn, a tributary of the Moyola River, was reported on June 11. During investigations slurry effluent was found to be the cause. The effluent was traced back to premises belonging to the defendant.
An interview was conducted and the defendant admitted that a leak had occurred from a slurry tank on his farm as a result of a loose valve.
The court was told that a major fish kill had occurred as a result of the pollution. Some 880 fish had been killed, both brown trout and salmon.
District Judge Mullan told the court that this was the defendant’s second pollution offence in a space of a few months.
Defence solicitor, Stephen Atherton told the court that once the effluent was discovered, the defendant, ‘worked all night’ to try and ‘rectify’ the issue.
Mr Atherton said: “This is a 58 year-old man, he has recently suffered from ill-health and spent a period of time in hospital last year. He remains in ill health but he is trying to manage his farm in the best way he can.
“I would ask you to give him maximum credit for his plea. He made immediate admissions.
“This was a mechanical error, there was absolutely no intention to pollute the waterway. He stayed up all night trying to rectify the issue.
“It’s very unfortunate that this is a man, who has decades in managing a farm, finds himself before the court twice in such a short period,” said Mr Atherton.
Speaking directly to Duncan, Deputy District Judge Mullan said: “You have appeared before the court this morning for a second charge of this nature which is concerning but you made full admissions. This was an operational error caused by your son. I take into account that you did try to resolve the problem as soon as possible but there were substantial fish killed.”
Judge Mullan fined the defendant £665 before warning: “Keep an eye on things especially if your son is operating things.”
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