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Agricultural expert warns Scotland's waterways could become polluted if farmers let silage storage standards slip

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

With first cut silage hopefully already in the clamp, farmers are being urged by William Barne, of leading farm insurance broker Lycetts, to check their clamps are not leaching pollutants into the ground.

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.

William, based at the Lycetts’ Edinburgh office, fears that too many farmers haven’t checked their silage clamps are airtight and leach 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 William.

“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.”

Due to the seriousness of the offence, farmers face hefty fines if prosecuted. 

Earlier this year, the Environment Agency revealed that a farmer had been fined thousands of pounds for polluting a protected watercourse after failing to properly store silage.

Officers visited his farm and found a large amount of silage effluent flowing from a defective silage store into surface water drains that fed directly into the river.

William emphasised that whilst insurance cover is available for the cleanup, it is not available for the substantial fines that could result from action taken by the Environment Agency as a result of any incident.

“Farmers have many HSE and Environment Agency standards to comply with and must keep ahead of the game to avoid these fines which remain un-insured,” he added.

 “It will not only allow them to rest easy in the knowledge they are fully compliant with working practices and not polluting the environment but they won’t suffer an unexpected financial hit if things go wrong.”

For more information about Lycetts and farm insurance, visit


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