From January to the end of November 2020, there have been 253 farm pollution incidents recorded by the NI Environment Agency (NIEA).

The 2020 figure is down significantly from the same period in 2019 when over 300 cases were identified.

However, farms remain at the top of the NIEA offender list, ahead of domestic property at 156, industry at 150 and NI Water Ltd at 118.

There have been 18 high-severity pollution incidents recorded by NIEA in 2020

Speaking at an online event on Tuesday, Mert Thompson from NIEA put the lower number of cases linked to farms in 2020 down to the dry spring and early summer.

“Agriculture was not under as much pressure [from the weather]. It is questionable whether there have been any significant changes,” he suggested.

The vast majority of pollution cases are classed as low severity, but of the 97 classed as medium severity, half are linked to farms.

There have been 18 high-severity pollution incidents recorded by NIEA in 2020, of which eight are farm-related.

Of these 18 high-severity cases, in eight, enforcement action is under way, two are under investigation and in the remainder, no individual polluter was identified.


As well as enforcement in medium and high-severity cases, Thompson said that NIEA action can also involve a warning along with cost recovery, or a cross-compliance breach being recorded leading to a penalty applied to farm direct payments.

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