Agency issues cold weather pollution warnings

Farmers have been warned to plan muck-spreading carefully in cold weather to avoid causing pollution as the UK was plunged into one of the worst cold snaps in almost two decades.

The Environment Agency said the amount of run-off from fields can substantially increase during cold periods where fields have frozen or become covered in snow.

Loss of soil, slurry and manure from fields into rivers, streams and other watercourses can have a serious impact on water quality.

Farmers were told to check field conditions and weather forecasts before spreading manure to avoid causing problems for fisheries, local wildlife and downstream users.

The agency said: “Before considering any field work, farmers should pay attention to the weather forecast as heavy frost and rainfall can lead to a greater risk of incidents occurring.”

Other advice included choosing the most suitable fields first, avoiding fields on sloping ground, keeping application rates low, and leaving a 20-metre buffer strip along rivers.

The advice, which was issued by the Environment Agency in Wales, came just days before parts of Wales and much of the rest of the UK was hit by plunging temperatures and snow storms.

Airports were closed, trains and buses were cancelled and millions stayed at home as snow blanketed parts of the country.

South East England saw the heaviest snowfall for 18 years, and much of the transport network in London ground to a halt during the morning rush hour.

Business groups estimated that the disruption may have cost UK businesses about £1bn as a result of lost trade and employees failing to turn up.

Kate Martin

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