A Cork farmer has been convicted of causing a major fish kill on the Tracton River, Cork, which resulted in the deaths of 5,000 fish, by allowing effluent to discharge from a slurry tank in his farmyard.
Mr. James Coveney of Oldcastle, Boardee, Carrigaline was convicted and fined €2,000 plus €1,500 in costs at Cork District Court on Monday 11 July 2022 following a lengthy prosecution taken by Inland Fisheries Ireland, the state agency responsible for the protection and conservation of freshwater fish and habitats.
Judge Marian O’Leary convicted Mr Coveney under Section 171 (1) of the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act 1959 and Section 4 of the Local Government (Water Pollution) Act 1977 for allowing effluent to discharge from a slurry tank in his farmyard in April 2020.
“The slurry crossed a public road into a drainage system, from which it entered the Tracton River.
“The discharge led to an estimated 5,000 fish being killed, mainly brown trout. A further charge under Section 3 of the 1977 Act was withdrawn,” Inland Fisheries Ireland said.
The court heard evidence that Inland Fisheries Ireland’s senior fisheries environmental officer, Michael McPartland, had traced the discharge to Mr. Coveney’s farmyard.
Mr Coveney admitted that there had been a discharge from a surface slurry tank but claimed that as the tank had not been agitated, it was water rather than slurry and denied that it had caused a fish kill.
In her decision, Judge O’Leary noted that an engineer giving evidence on behalf of Mr Coveney had confirmed that the effluent had come from the farmyard and while the defendant claimed that a third party had entered his property and maliciously released the effluent, no evidence was presented to support the claim.
Seán Long, director of the south-western river basin district at Inland Fisheries Ireland, welcomed the decision, saying that Inland Fisheries Ireland would continue to prosecute in all cases where a fish kill occurs and the cause established.
“Salmonid habitats, where brown trout and Atlantic salmon depend on good water quality to survive, are incredibly sensitive to changes in water chemistry.
"As we can see from this fish kill in Carrigaline, slurry discharging into a river is toxic and can be lethal for Ireland’s fish species. We would appeal to farmers with slurry holding tanks to take every measure possible to minimise the risk of discharge, regardless of the location or age of the tanks.”
Members of the public who wish to report suspected cases of water pollution or fish kills are encouraged to telephone Inland Fisheries Ireland’s new confidential hotline number, which is 0818 34 74 24. The 24-hour hotline is open seven days a week.