AN agricultural expert is warning that highly-toxic run-off from North West farms could leak into and pollute waterways this summer if farmers aren’t vigilant.

Farmers are being urged by Rupert Wailes-Fairbairn, of leading farm insurance broker Lycetts, to check their clamps ahead of the first cut of the season, which was delayed this year by the cold, dry Spring.

If the effluent from the silage clamps gets into the waterways, it can have a devastating impact on fish, wildlife and ecosystems as it could be up to 200 times more toxic than untreated sewage.

Rupert fears that too many farmers haven’t checked their silage clamps are airtight and leak-free because they aren’t fully aware of the dangers of poor silage storage.

“Silage effluent is extraordinarily toxic - so the damage it can cause to watercourse eco-systems is profound,” said Rupert.

“Once the effluent is in the ground and reaches a watercourse, it is very difficult to contain and it can find its way into springs, wells and boreholes and public water supplies which will require immediate action by an Environment Agency approved contractor.

“Farmers must therefore make every effort to ensure their clamps are well maintained, and that includes all pipes and tanks as well.”

According to the Environment Agency, there has been a steady rise in the number of water pollution incidents in recent years, from fewer than 6,500 in 2015 to almost 7,600 in 2019. Most of these are caused by water/sewage companies and farmers.

If farmers are found to be negligent in their storage of silage and other polluting materials, such as agricultural fertiliser and slurry, they face hefty fines, which may be un-insured.