Agricultural expert warns of summer silage pollution threat to Scottish waterways


AN agricultural expert is warning that highly-toxic run-off from local farms could add to the pollution problem in Scotland’s waterways this summer.

Local farmers should urgently check their silage clamps in the wake of a string of hefty fines for silage pollution, according to James Cuthbertson at agricultural insurance broker Lycetts.

Farmers across the UK have recently been ordered to pay fines ranging from £5,000 to £20,000 after silage clamp leaks polluted local watercourses.

“With the silage season upon us, it is vital that Scottish farmers check their silage clamps now – before the first cut – to prevent highly-toxic run-off from entering nearby waterways,” said Cuthbertson from the Lycetts Edinburgh office.

“Silage effluent, which can be up to 200 times more toxic than untreated sewage, poses a significant threat to aquatic life, wildlife, and broader ecosystems.”

Sepa (The Scottish Environment Protection Agency) assessments of waters impacted by rural pollution in 2022 revealed that 50 were rated as poor, and five as bad1.

“It’s essential that all parts of the silage storage system, from pipes to tanks, are well maintained,” explained Cuthbertson. “Silage clamps and all drainage systems should be carefully inspected checked to make sure they are airtight and leak-free.”

A deep clean can more easily identify leaks but farmers should be careful not to damage protective lining, asphalt or concrete surfaces.   

“Farmers should check that the floor is sound,” added Cuthbertson, “that cracks are properly repaired and that wall coatings and overlapping protective films are intact. 

“Collection channels and drains should be regularly cleaned out to ensure they are watertight and drains flushed with water before filling the clamp, to ensure they are free from leaks or blockages. 

“After filling it, effluent levels should be regularly monitored and nearby watercourses checked for signs of pollution.

“Farmers must be proactive in their approach to managing silage storage. The consequences of negligence are not only environmentally disastrous but also financially very damaging, as the substantial fines for pollution incidents are not covered by insurance.”

Lycetts offers comprehensive insurance and risk management services tailored to the agricultural sector, supporting farmers in meeting health, safety, and environmental standards.

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