Surprisingly, large quantities of milk can be more harmful to river systems than a sewage spill, killing fish and other aquatic life.

Because of this, environmental regulations prohibit its spreading on frozen land as it tends to be washed straight into the nearest water course.

The recent icy conditions have prevented tankers from completing their usual milk collections in many parts of the country, however, forcing farmers to stockpile milk.

A similar situation exists for slurry.

Deciding spreading the milk and slurry is the lesser of two evils, the Environment Agency has stressed that it is issuing the guidance to reduce the risk of pollution from overflowing storage tanks and would apply only until milk collections returned to normal.

To help farmers get through the exceptional weather conditions, the Environment Agency will allow farmers whose slurry storage is at or near to capacity to spread slurry and waste milk on snow-covered or frozen soil.

The Environment Agency will not take enforcement action when:

  • action has to be taken to prevent storage overflowing
  • there is no alternative temporary storage available – such as at a neighbour’s farm – and there are no other environmentally acceptable options for disposal
  • the activity is unlikely to result in pollution
  • Environment Agency director of operations, David Jordan said: “This is a really tough time for farmers and comes on top of the recent floods in Cumbria.

    “We want to do what we can to help farmers, while still protecting the environment against pollution. That is why we will relax the rules on spreading milk and slurry if they have run out of storage options.

    “Most farmers should have enough storage space to cope through the winter, but any farmer who is facing slurry or surplus milk storage problems should call us.”

    Sam Bond

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