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Published: 2003-12-19 00:00:00

A Thames dairy farm and its manager have been convicted and fined for discharging dairy shed effluent into a drain.

Carousel Dairy Farm Ltd was fined $5000 plus costs and the farm manager, Maxwell Kennedy, convicted and ordered to pay court costs for breaches of the Resource Management Act in September last year.

On the day of the offence about 450 cows were milked. Effluent treatment included a sump and a pump that conveyed effluent from a feed pad and dairy shed to two oxidation ponds. Environment Waikato received a complaint that an open drain on Bush Rd contained cow effluent.

On inspection effluent was seen discharging into a drain on the farm, one pond was full and the other was about half a metre below a recent high volume mark around the pond edge, indicating recent partial emptying of the pond. Green foaming effluent was discharging into the drain and had been for at least 18 hours.

The contamination resulted in a 2.5 times increase in suspended solids, and seven times the biochemical oxygen demand. The defendant said he had had problems with the effluent system. Hay had been fed to stock on a new feed pad and had washed into the sump, blocking the pump.

The ponds were full and Mr Kennedy said he had had no choice but to let effluent flow into the drain to avoid a pond overspill and a potentially more serious environmental result. Because he had an injury to his foot, more effluent was released into the drain over a sustained period.

Judge R J Bollard said Mr Kennedy did not have a consent to discharge into the drain and the discharge was significant, producing a marked rise in the pollution level of the watercourse, which led to the Piako River and out to sea.

Although a deliberate decision was taken to unlawfully discharge the effluent, the decision was “impelled by a combination of unexpected circumstances”. However he was not satisfied that no alternative was available.

He refused name suppression, as speculation may fall on other farmers in the community. Improvements to the system overall since the offence had cost about $30,000 so that a recurrence was unlikely.