Slurry Problems in Milton Damerel, near Holsworthy, Devon

We live in Milton Damerel near Holsworthy and in the last 30 years have witnessed first hand the effects of the growing number of factory farms in the area, these include:

A major fly infestation which got worse for a period of 5 years until finally after many calls and letters to the Environment Agency and Torridge District Council (who were both unconcerned) we did our own research into the diseases carried by flies. One such disease is TB and, because this is a TB infected area and children are no longer vaccinated against TB as standard, we pointed out that this could pose a significant health risk. The fly problem was then traced to a nearby chicken farm where, we believe, the owner had been cutting corners with hygiene to save money. The Environment Agency officer was shocked at the amount of flies on site, literally hundreds of thousands and the fact that this farm had been spreading fly infested chicken slurry for miles in the area thus polluting a larger area each year. Local residents had five years of misery, unable to open a window or door in the summer or enjoy their gardens because the infestation by flies was so bad. The farmer was eventually fined (about £3000 we believe).

We have in the past been flooded with thousands of gallons of slurry which then made its way into the River Waldon. This was as a direct result of an intensive dairy farmer allowing his slurry lagoon to overfill and burst. We were unable to get any compensation for our losses. The slurry lagoon was sited on the route of a public footpath but again the authorities seemed unconcerned  by this fact.

The River Waldon has been polluted many times by slurry but, as far as we are aware, the farmer has only been fined once and then only for £3000. He has since expanded his dairy herd substantially and had no problem getting a much larger slurry lagoon approved by Torridge District Council. Whether this has been checked in any way by the authorities is questionable.

We have witnessed slurry being spread on the fields around us and no more than six hours later, cattle being let into the same field to graze. It seemed obvious to us that this was likely to be the reason for the high incidence of TB within his dairy herd (and not the poor badgers who have been culled in huge numbers locally).

The amount of slurry and digestate spread locally has increased to industrial proportions as has the machinery for slurry spreading and sileaging which has a huge impact on the state of the roads, road safety and the destruction of hedgerows, etc.

The health risk from slurry is obvious. Something that makes you feel physically sick from the odour of it, cannot be good for you.  The incidence of people getting cancer in the immediate area (which is only a small hamlet ) is extremely high for a small population and one has to wonder if slurry has any part to play in this along with the sheer amount of nitrates used on the land.

It appears to us that industrial farmers seem to be allowed to flout the law in so many ways which create risks to public health.

At least one local farmer spreads his slurry directly from the road over the hedge and has made the road virtually unusable for local residents for a number of years now. Torridge District Council have so far done nothing about it.

We are not anti farming in any way as we live in a farming community but we are saddened at the extent to which factory farmers seem to get away with destructive practices both in terms of animal welfare and environmental considerations.

We are  heartened by the last few e-mails we have received from Too Much Slurry which shows that we are not the only ones feeling like this and wanting to do something about it. Similarly there are traditional farmers in our local area who have high standards of animal welfare and farming practices who are adversely affected by factory farms.

Please let us know what we can do to help.  We are just glad that Too Much Slurry has been able to connect so many people who can work together to try and sort these issues out.