AN INVESTIGATION is underway after effluent from an anaerobic digester found its way into a Herefordshire watercourse.

One Herefordshire villager has said the incident, which happened in the wake of the recent floods that hit the county, must serve as a wake up call to farmers and legislators.

The alarm was raised after suspected pollution from an anaerobic digester in the Stansbatch area was reported to the Environment Agency on December 5 after concerned residents noticed a foam had formed on the water of Stansbatch brook.

Villager James Weymouth said he believed the pollution had happened as a result of the persistently wet autumn weather the county has seen.

"This autumn has presented challenges to farmers and problems for the environment. This is normal in a wet season in Herefordshire," Mr Weymouth said.

"Now, however, we have a much more dangerous issue. Lagoons attached to anaerobic digesters are full. This lethal liquid removes all oxygen from watercourses, and it found its way into the Stansbatch brook last week."

Mr Weymouth said it was feared that the brook, which is home to protected species including white-clawed crayfish, may have been badly damaged by the pollution.

"This needs to be a wake up call to farmers, and legislators need to consider if it is wise to continue to subsidise these units if the controls on the construction are inadequate and the protections for the environment not strong enough," Mr Weymouth said.

An Environment Agency spokesperson confirmed that pollution had been reported in the Stansbatch brook, and said environmental officers had inspected the site.

"The pollution was found to be caused by the agricultural spreading of digestate (the final effluent produced by anaerobic digestion plants). Sodden ground and subsequent heavy rainfall lead to a significant loss of the effluent to the brook.

“The officers found the water to be discoloured and have a slurry type odour. Tests confirmed there were elevated traces of ammonia in the water and our officers informed the farmer of the need to stop the activity.

"Further monitoring of the Stansbatch brook revealed only a minimal impact on the water ecology at the outfall of the pollution. Along the course of the brook no further impact on the environment or wildlife was found.

"The investigation is ongoing."