A Co. Antrim farmer pleaded guilty to causing a polluting discharge to enter a waterway at Ballymena Magistrates’ Court today.

William Madill Kerr (74) from Cladytown Road, Ballymena, was given a three-month prison sentence, suspended for two years.

On December 20, 2017, water quality inspectors, acting on behalf of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, discovered slurry deposited on the laneway leading to a farm at Cladytown Road, Ballymena.

The inspectors identified that slurry had recently flowed down the laneway into a track cut in a roadside verge, before entering a sheugh (ditch) which discharges into an unnamed tributary of the River Maine.

In January 2018, inspectors returned to the farm where they discovered that slurry had again recently flowed down the laneway, before entering the same sheugh. An inspector told the court a large volume of slurry was seen in the ditch.

In accordance with procedures, a sample was collected.

Later the same month, as arranged, inspectors returned to the farm to determine if remedial works required by the department to remedy the situation at the farm had been completed.

The inspectors discovered the laneway was dirty and there was evidence that again slurry had recently flowed down the laneway and into the sheugh. They also observed slurry tanks overflowing on the farm.

On March 6, 2018, during a further inspection, the inspectors discovered slurry escaping from an overflowing tank at the rear of the farm and flowing onto an adjacent field. Slurry from a cattle shed was also spilling onto a yard.

The analysis of the discharge collected on January 9, 2018, was found to contain poisonous, noxious, or polluting matter which was potentially harmful to fish life in the receiving waterway.

Effluents of this nature enrich fungus coverage on the bed of the watercourse which may lead to the destruction of fish spawning sites, as well as starving river invertebrates, on which fish feed, of oxygen.

Anyone wishing to report a pollution incident can call the 24-hour Water Pollution Hotline on: 0800-807060.