Dairy farm operator fined for effluent discharge

Environment Canterbury has successfully prosecuted a contract milking company and a dairy farm owner for allowing 136,000 litres of effluent to overflow from an effluent pond and onto a paddock.

Mairangi Dairies Limited operates a 1350 herd dairy farm at Fernside. It appeared in the Christchurch District Court on 26 January 2017 and pleaded guilty to discharging dairy effluent from a transfer system onto a paddock at 91 Boundary Road between March 23 and 30 2016.

A & H Dairies Limited – the milking contractor on the farm – also pleaded guilty to the same charge.

The Court imposed fines of $29,000 and costs against each company.

Judge Jackson said both companies were responsible for the maintenance of the transfer sump and stone trap and were “equally culpable” for the malfunctioning system.

Judge Jackson added that a lack of clear communication between the dairy farm owners and the milking contractor about the state of the stone trap and sump was also a factor.

“The defendants each say the other was responsible for the maintenance. In the meantime, the system failed. While they were standing back failing to take responsibility this unnecessary discharge occurred. That is an unacceptable deferral of responsibility.”

Environment Canterbury Principal Resource Management Advisor Richard Purdon says the ponding of dairy effluent in this way is unauthorised because it can both flow overland into surface waterbodies and also saturate the soil, increasing the likelihood of effluent leaking into the groundwater.

“Waterways in this area are particularly susceptible as the groundwater is very shallow. There are springs nearby and the water quality has been progressively deteriorating.” Mr Purdon says.

“Nutrient management is a key factor when it comes to meeting the Canterbury Water Management Strategy targets. Environment Canterbury pursues this kind of offending through the Courts to make it very clear to the parties responsible, and the industry as a whole, that they need to be vigilant when managing their dairy effluent.

“When it comes to managing dairy effluent properly, the community and the dairy industry expect Environment Canterbury to take action over this level of offending.”

Mairangi Dairies Limited was convicted and fined $29,000 and ordered to pay the Council’s investigation costs of $2740, Court costs of $132.89 and solicitor’s costs of $113.

A and H Dairies Limited was convicted and fined $29,000 and ordered to pay their Council’s investigation costs of $2740 Court costs of $132.89 and solicitor’s costs of $113.

For further information contact  Environment Canterbury Media on 027 221 5259 or email media@ecan.govt.nz