A Somerset farmer has been fined for the second time in five years for polluting a watercourse with slurry.

Stoke St Gregory farmer Ben Hembrow has been ordered to pay £11,000 for polluting a watercourse with slurry in three separate incidents for the second time in five years.

Hembrow, of Huntham Farm, pleaded guilty to polluting a tributary of Sedgemoor Old Rhyne three times.

A short distance downstream, the watercourse enters the West Sedgemoor Site of Special Scientific Interest, the Somerset Levels and Moors Special Protection Area and RAMSAR site.

The case was heard at Taunton Magistrates’ Court on October 6, 2021, when the 33-year-old was ordered to pay the Environment Agency costs of £9,567.38, fines totalling £1,689 and a victim surcharge of £168.

On June 19, 2019, following a report of low dissolved oxygen levels on the Sedgemoor Old Rhyne, environment officers found a tributary polluted with slurry.

They traced the pollution back to Huntham Farm, where a slurry lagoon had overtopped.

Slurry had run across a farm track, collected in the orchard, and made its way to the watercourse - polluting more than 1.5 kilometres.

A week later, although the farmer had taken action to try and prevent further pollution, slurry was still visible on the bed of the watercourse.

On October 29, 2019, environment officers again attended a report of pollution to the same tributary of the Sedgemoor Old Rhyne.

Their investigations found a surface water drain discharging to the tributary, and using dye tracing, confirmed that the drain was contaminated with run off from from dirty yards.

On January 30, 2020, following reports of further pollution to the tributary of the Sedgemoor Old Rhyne, environment officers found the tributary polluted with slurry due to slurry spreading activity on nearby fields.

Slurry had been applied at a rate which caused run off in to the ditch.

In 2016 Hembrow and his father John were found guilty of polluting this same tributary of the Sedgemoor Old Rhyne.

Jo Masters of the Environment Agency said: "It was disappointing to find continual pollution from Huntham Farm following a previous prosecution in 2016.

"We always strive to work with farmers to reduce the risk of pollution, protect the environment, and ensure they are compliant with the regulations.

"If you are concerned about pollution to water or land, contact our 24-hour incident line on 0800 807060."

In August 2016 Ben and John Hembrow pleaded guilty to charges relating to the pollution of the same watercourse with silage and slurry effluent.

Ben Hembrow pleaded guilty of polluting a watercourse and not complying with silage and slurry storage regulations after pollution was traced back to drains on the farm.

His father, John, admitted breaching a discharge permit because farm effluent was discharging into a watercourse.

They were ordered to pay a total of £1,150 in fines and £4,500 costs at Taunton Magistrates' Court on August 1, with £74 in victim surcharges.