Resident describes a walk at Crouchland Biogas/Farm

Dear PORE,

I thought I should write to thank you for the prompt to “go and have a look” that you posted the other day. As with many other Facebook followers of PORE I have been incensed by all the goings on that have been posted. My curiosity to see for myself was further prompted by your photos on 23rd March.

HOWEVER all of that hadn’t prepared me for what I saw when walking through the farm, using the Public Rights of Way. The initial approach down the drive looked promising (if one didn’t know the history). Smart tarmac driveway with public sensitive notices; to the passer-by a professional looking entrance for any company.

Then I arrived at the buildings. As a retired farmer I understand things can’t be all neat and tidy but this was something else. To the left total chaos of equipment and rubbish on a large area. Turning right, on the footpath you go past the end of the process plant. There’s a mixer with a sump next to it. The photos show inadequate barriers around this sump. On my walk past, these barriers were lying on the ground, possibly blown there in the recent gales. There is a ladder into the contents and from it’s the angle the sump must be at least 6 foot deep.The footpath is NOT fenced from this industrial danger zone and it would only take one dog slipping its leash or one child running around to cause a potentially fatal accident. To most people the “crust” looks like a solid surface. This is only one corner of a large industrial area.

Walking up the hill towards the lagoons, the footpath is deeply rutted by tractor movements, not surprising on a farm. HOWEVER there is a conspicuous lack of footpath signs.

All the lagoons appear to be constructed on the “cut and fill” principle. For every cubic yard of soil excavated and used for the sides, you get 2 cubic yards of storage. The lagoon that most concerned me had various pipes coming from the top with just one gate valve (large tap) in each. They came down the bank and disappeared under the track. A failure in one of these pipes would be very likely to set up a siphon which would release large quantities of liquid if not spotted immediately. More worrying is the evidence that this bank is showing signs of slippage. I can’t claim to know the volume of this reservoir but a guess would put it at near 1 million gallons! We all remember the large landslides in Cumbria on the news. Whilst this isn’t anything as dramatic the results of all this digestate flowing free is something we cannot allow, let alone comprehend. The spillages seen already would pale into insignificance.

It appears this lagoon is full of digestate and covered with a black membrane (plastic sheet). This is raised in areas where gas has gathered and should be kept pumped off. However there is a strong smell of gas AND near the land slippage area is a flare for burning this gas off. I gather we are assured this is NOT done, if so why is there a flare there and why do they have to burn off their end product?

The whole area is a Health and Safety nightmare yet Crouchlands seem oblivious to the risks. Fences are inadequate and should an animal (or errant child) stray onto these lagoons it’s a fair chance they’ll end up as part of the digestate. To Crouchlands this is an impossibility.....however go and look for yourselves.

This Spring will show us what really is going on with the land and plants and tree growth, already there are dying oak trees everywhere with, I’m sure, many more to come.

To think that this AD plant is amongst the largest in Europe is scary. Travelling though Germany and Denmark most dairy farms have small digesters fuelling their generators and are scrupulously clean. This outfit is NOT in the same professional league.

That a FARMER can allow such practice on his land is “criminal” and he should be ashamed of himself. However I fear the greed for “profit” is all this farmer is interested in. Crouchlands used to be a leading dairy farm at the cutting edge of the industry. Now it’s a token herd of cows and a polluting, industrial disgrace. Man up Mr Luttman-Johnson and face your critics personally.

I would suggest that those of you who are following this horror story go for a walk and see it with your own eyes. It will add to the already well documented legal disputes that are running.
Keep up the good work PORE.

A local resident who’s lived in the area all of his 69 years!