Although special arrangements are in place with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) regarding the disposal of the large quantities of disinfectants required at farms and facilities where the presence of ‘Foot and Mouth’ has been confirmed, the Environment Agency is concerned about possible effects on the environment of general use of the disinfectants.

The Environment Agency is advising farmers to follow the manufacturer’s product instructions and safety advice, and to make up only the quantity that is required at that moment, with care taken when transporting, decanting and diluting disinfectants. When positioning disinfecting sites, farmers should chose an area away from ditches or drains, using plastic sheeting as a base, with straw being added to reduce splashing. Where necessary, disinfectant runoff should be diverted to a suitable grassy area.

Used disinfectant should be disposed of into a slurry or manure store, with eventual disposal to land, in accordance with the MAFF Water Code, though where this is not possible, small quantities can be tipped onto an area of permanent grass that poses no threat to water. Disinfectants should never be disposed of into surface water drains or septic tanks. Straw that has been soaked in disinfectant should be composted and eventually disposed of onto land, though with sites that have no composing facilities should have the material bagged and taken to a suitably licensed landfill site.

“The priority is to eradicate the ‘Foot and Mouth’ virus as quickly as possible,” said Geoff Bateman, spokesman for the Environment Agency. “Effective disinfection is a critical aspect of disease control, but we also need to take care to avoid pollution and environmental damage. All disinfectants pose a potential pollution risk, particularly to rivers, streams and their associated wildlife, and those with a phenolic content can be particularly persistent. Sensible precautions, however, will minimise the risks.”

In the event of a serious spillage of disinfectant which could harm the environment, the Environment Agency is urging those involved to call their emergency helpline on 0800 08 70 60, otherwise, general advice about disinfectant disposal can be obtained from local Environment Agency offices, or by telephoning 0845 933 3111.

MAFF have their own national foot and mouth disease helpline, which can provide a list of approved disinfectants, operating between 08.00 and 23.00hrs, and can be contacted on 0845 050 4141. Anyone wishing to report suspicious signs in livestock can contact their local MAFF animal health division office at any time.

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