Environment Agency emphasises its involvement in carcass disposal

Following a number of complaints regarding the disposal of carcasses of livestock slaughtered in the attempt to eradicate foot and mouth disease, the Environment Agency has emphasised that it is continuing to work closely with the Ministry of Agriculture (MAFF) and the army on disposal issues.

New large-scale disposal sites include landfills announced on 9 April near Meeth in North Devon, and at Maw Green near Crewe in Cheshire, which follow advice from Agency environmental protection staff and hydrologists. Landfill sites will only be used for animals not infected with the disease.

“We are doing everything we can to provide timely authoritative advice to those who ultimately have to decide on disposal sites whilst ensuring that we protect the environment,” said Roger Thomas, Director of Environment Agency Wales. “We are putting every effort into this, pulling in extra staff, and placing others ready on standby.” In Wales, Agency officers are responding to request for advice within two to three hours, according to the organisation.

Due to high groundwater levels in Devon, the Meeth site will consist of a series of shallow pits, of only one metre in depth, lined with an impermeable plastic base were animals will be placed and then covered, raising the level of the site by around three metres. In addition, an effluent containment system is being installed so that leachate from the site can be safely collected and treated.

The importance of following Agency advice was highlighted on 3 April by fears that drinking water supplies for a village in County Durham had been contaminated by carcasses buried in a sandstone quarry which the Environment Agency had advised against using. The Agency has now been reassured that the carcasses are to be exhumed and disposed of elsewhere.

“It is vital to get farming back on its feet as soon as possible, but we need to be sure that we are not creating environmental problems for the future as these could risk the recovery and future viability of the rural economy,” said Richard Cresswell, Environment Agency regional director for the South West.

According to the Environment Agency, the following options for the disposal of carcasses are all in use: rendering, which is the Agency’s preferred option; incineration at a licensed incinerator; landfill at licensed landfill sites; and burying and burning on land assessed as suitable for that purpose by the Agency, including the large scale disposal into trenches at Great Orton, Cumbria, as well as smaller-scale on-farm burning and burying.

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