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Co Antrim farmer convicted of water pollution after 1448 fish killed at Dunore River

Dunore River

Kurtis ReidBelfast Telegraph

A Co Antrim farmer has been found guilty of water pollution and fined after more than 1000 fish were killed.

Mark Patterson (50) pleaded guilty to the offence on Monday at Ballymena Magistrates’ Court and was fined £1,000 plus £15 Offenders Levy and ordered to pay £1,733.94 as compensation as a result of the fish kill last year.

His conviction comes after a water quality inspector acting on behalf of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency responded to a report of pollution affecting the Dunore River in May 2021.

The inspector subsequently discovered the river was brown in colour with foam on the surface of the water due to an outlet hatch from a slurry tank which had not been closed properly the previous evening.

This caused the reception tank to overfill and the slurry to flow over a field, enter the sheugh (a ditch or furrow) at the bottom of the field before flowing into the Dunore River.

It was recommend a sump (a low space which collects liquid) should be created at the open section to contain the remaining slurry.

It was also acknowledged Mr Patterson had “carried out clean-up activities to prevent any further discharges” into the river.

After samples were collected it was found the discharge contained “poisonous, noxious, or polluting matter which was potentially harmful to fish life in the receiving waterway”.

According to the NIEA, these elements found in the river can “enrich fungus” on the surface of the water which may lead to the “destruction of fish spawning sites, as well as starving river invertebrates, on which fish feed, of oxygen.”

Days later, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, fisheries officers carried out a dead fish count in which a total of 1448 dead fish were counted.

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