A dairy farmer was sentenced to 320 hours community work for discharging farm effluent onto land which could result in the contaminant entering water.
In Tauranga District Court yesterday Judge Robert Wolff said he would have imposed a penalty of $32,000 on Ian Kevin John Ruff, but as the offender was unable to pay the fine he sentenced Mr Ruff to 320 hours community work. The maximum amount of community work that could have been imposed is 400 hours.
The defendant was leasing a farm on State Highway 35 at Opotiki. When a Council officer inspected the farm in December 2011 he found the effluent pond was overgrown with weeds and effluent was overflowing through a channel that went into a nearby spring-fed stream. The Council officer issued an abatement notice to Mr Ruff requiring him to prevent the discharge.
However, seven weeks later on a follow-up inspection an officer found effluent continued to overflow into the same stream from the same pond.
Water samples showed 300,000 faecal coliforms per 100mL where the effluent overflowed from the pond to the stream. The maximum level for safe bathing is 550 faecal coliforms per 100 mL and the maximum allowable level before stock drinking water becomes unsafe is 100 faecal coliforms per 100mL.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council pollution prevention manager Nick Zaman said the conviction sent a very clear message that discharging effluent where it could enter a stream was never acceptable.
"We have had other offences of this nature in the same area, and we are very concerned that some farmers are continuing to ignore maintenance issues on their farms. This offender had already been warned on a previous occasion, and had been issued with an abatement notice but effluent continued to discharge to the stream.
"Farmers need to always keep a watchful eye on their effluent systems, ensure they are working correctly and are adequately maintained for the protection of our waterways," he said.