FARMERS in Cumnock and Doon Valley could be running the risk of an “unlimited fine” following a warning from an agricultural expert.

Official figures from Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) have revealed there were 1,649 incidents of farm pollution across Scotland in the past decade and Matt McWhirter of Farmers & Mercantile Insurance Brokers, says he is worried too many farmers are not aware of just how destructive farm pollution can be to the environment – or the severe penalties they face if prosecuted.

Farm pollution incidents can have a devastating impact on wildlife, ecosystems and, in some cases, human health – for example, silage effluent can be up to 200 times more toxic than untreated sewage if it finds its way into waterways.

“What many farmers don’t realise is that they could be slapped with unlimited fines, or up to five years in prison, if found responsible for a pollution breach,” said Mr McWhirter.


He warned that, whilst insurance may cover the cost of any clean-ups, it is not available to cover the cost of substantial fines imposed when farmers don’t comply with the law.

“Agriculture remains one of the biggest sources of pollution incidents, with a large number of incidents relating to water pollution, with slurry, soil and chemicals running into water courses,” he said.

“Much can be done, however, to mitigate the risks.

“First of all, farmers should ensure their knowledge of environmental legislation is up-to-date and that they closely follow guidance from SEPA.

“Risk assessments should be conducted, such as identifying low-lying areas and waterways vulnerable to effluent run off, and checks should be routinely carried out, from ensuring silage clamps and slurry containers are sound and secure to examining nearby waterways for signs of pollution.

“Adverse weather should be also taken into account, as heavy rainfall can increase the chance of toxic runoff.”