Firs Farm - News and Information
Firs Farm is a tenanted farm belonging to Leicestershire County Council. There has been an ongoing dialogue with the Tenant and a number of inspections by Leicestershire County Council, Trading Standards and the Landlord (Property Services) over the last 18 months.
The County Council, Harborough District Council and the Environment Agency are now working together to determine the source(s) of the waste, the extent and content of the waste and effect the clean-up operation.
The Parish Council has requested information from Leicestershire County Council in response to your queries. These questions and the responses provided by Leicestershire County Council are listed below:
Leicestershire County Council responses to your questions
1. Is any of the waste at the Firs Farm site toxic?
At present we have not located or identified any specific toxic contamination on the farm There is semi-processed household waste, animal/agricultural waste, and building waste (including soil, concrete and gypsum based plasterboard waste). The ongoing investigations will determine whether there is any other waste buried on site.
2. Are the people living near to the farm at any risk?
Subject to further investigation our understanding is that the risk to health of nearby residents and the allotments is minimal due to the type of waste and the timescales involved. In the event that this information changes we will notify you.
3. Has any waste matter contaminated the water system?
It is understood that leachate from the manure heap to the rear of the allotments and also to the south of the farmstead has entered the local watercourses. The Environment Agency are monitoring this situation and will determine if further action is required. The manure heap is predominately animal bedding (straw, etc.) and animal waste (manure) with some plasterboard waste mixed in.
4. Has any contaminated water affected the nearby allotments?
At this stage in the investigations it is not possible to say categorically whether contaminants from the manure heap or elsewhere have or haven't entered the groundwater. This will be subject to further investigation, and advice in due course.
5. Are the allotments still safe to use, grow crops on, and eat crops from?
Given the timescales involved it is considered that there is a minimal risk of contamination affecting the growing of crops on the allotments. Individual plot holders should take the usual precautions including:
- not using ground/ditch water to irrigate crops
- ensure that all root crops are properly washed and cleaned of soil, etc.
- ensure that all root crops are properly cooked.
- Plot holders should not use manure originating from the manure heaps on the farm.
6. Can I safely remove any litter which has blown from the farm on to my allotment?
From our inspections the waste that is blowing away appears to be paper, plastic and fabric and as such, with sensible precautions (such as gloves or litter pickers), plot holders should be able to litter pick it and dispose of it as household waste safely. As part of the clean-up operation we will ensure that as much blown and dispersed waste is retrieved and disposed properly of as possible, and before the waste is removed will try to ensure it is contained on the farm.
7. What has been causing the smell from Firs Farm?
It is our understanding that the noxious smells originate from the manure heaps and the biodegrading of the gypsum waste in anaerobic conditions which can produce hydrogen sulphide gas (the rotten eggs/sulphurous smell).
The gypsum originates from waste plasterboard backing paper which was brought on to the farm originally as animal bedding. This is not considered good practice, although it isn't banned; however when gypsum is mixed with biodegradable waste (such as manure) it is illegal to dispose of this via landfill due to the production of hydrogen sulphide gas.
8. Is the smell from the farm dangerous?
The gas produced is toxic if it is present in high concentrations, but as it is venting directly to the air at the farm, there will be a low risk to general health. However, anyone experiencing breathing difficulties associated with being in the vicinity of the farm should contact their doctor or the NHS telephone line for further advice.
Update - 22/05/2020
Leicestershire County Council has provided the following additional information in relation to the ongoing investigation at Firs Farm:
"The County Council continues to work with the Environment Agency (EA) and Harborough District Council to deal with the illegal waste dumping at Firs Farm. It is our understanding that the EA are continuing their criminal investigation in to the source of the waste. The County Council is working with a waste management consultancy to develop a suitable plan for the removal and safe, and appropriate, disposal of the waste which has been brought on to the farm (which will include the removal of litter which has blown on to the allotment site and other areas). Due to the complex and inter-related nature of the waste, together with the unquantified locations and quantities, this will take some time to develop. As part of the plan, a schedule of surveys and ground and surface water testing will be required to satisfy the relevant authorities that pollutants have not escaped to other areas.
Alongside the waste issues, the County Council continues to pursue legal possession of the farm; this is complicated by the Tenant's personal circumstances however once resolved will allow the Council to assume control of the farm, with full legal jurisdiction to undertake the works outlined above."
Questions relating to the Farm and the ongoing investigation should be directed to The Clerk who will contact the relevant authorities on your behalf. Additional questions and official responses will be added to this page.
Page last updated: 22/05/2020