“Every single year we know the exact day people start spreading slurry.” Those were the words of Brendan Cooney of Wexford County Council, who spoke at the Irish Tillage and Land Use (ITLUS) conference last week.

Cooney knows the day because calls immediately start to come in to the county council from the public complaining about the smell and practice of spreading that slurry.

He also emphasised the fact that farmers need to be aware of the disconnect between farmers and the general public.

Cooney made the point that when these calls come in, the county council must take action and whether you know it or not the county council do go out and investigate the call.

The environmental scientist stated: “We would get two to three phone calls every day about spreading slurry.”

He added that many of the people now living in the countryside are not from a rural background and many describe the smell from manure being spread as “toxic”.

Spreading slurry

Cooney also noted that if someone phones the county council and says that a farmer is spreading slurry into the river they have to follow up.

“We have to go out and see what’s going on. A lot of times it means we go along and drive by. We get in our car, or we might get someone from the area offices to do a quick drive by, to see what’s going on.

Very often you can see straight away that there are quite good buffer zones beside rivers, but you need to be aware of that as farmers.

Noise pollution

“We regularly get people ringing up about noise pollution – cockerels crowing in the morning. We regularly get phone calls from people complaining about people running their tractors late at night.

“I know one place this year where they were scrambling to get corn cut before rain came in and we got three phone calls in the area because they were working at 11:00pm. This is what you are up against.

There’s a disconnect between the general public and what you’re doing and what their expectations are of living in the countryside.

“We have to go along and look at them and see exactly what’s happening. A lot of the time we go along and we say there’s nothing more we can do.”

Cooney emphasised the fact that farmers need to be aware of this disconnect. If the public feel the county council’s are not doing their job, they can report the matter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

For a fee of €50 members of the public can take their action to the district court.

Cooney added that some of these complaints can be legitimate. For example, crow bangers running in the middle of the night.