A 61-year-old farmer has been convicted of polluting a waterway after poisonous and noxious substances were found in a lough outside Newtownbutler.

Fermnagh Magistrates Court heard, Tommy Fiddis, of Crom Road, Brannish, Newtownbutler was visited by inspectors from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) on November 28, 2018 after the received a report of effluent going into Moorlough Lake in Newtownbutler.

The inspectors spoke to Fiddis and said a tractor and tanker had been spreading effluent on a lane which was running into the lough.

The defendant told the inspectors that he no longer carried out physical tasks on the farm, but his nephew did who came and spoke to the inspectors.

He brought them to the lane where the effluent was disposed. On closer examination egg shell and membrane were detected. The effluent was running off the lane into a waterway and into the lough.

A sample was taken and it confirmed there were poisonous and noxious substances polluting the water which were potentially damaging to aquatic life.

Fiddis was cautioned by the NIEA and he explained to the inspector that anytime the lane was dirty they would wash it water from a nearby egg factory and they thought the water was clean. Since the incident they no longer do this.

Michael Fahy, representing Fiddis, told the court it was an ad hoc arrangement between his client and the egg company to dispose of the liquid but he was not aware of any noxious substances.

He pointed out that there was no fish kill or damage to aquatic life as a result of the pollution and further inspections has been carried out since and the farm was “immaculate”.

Mr. Fahy said his client was very well respected in the local community and had entered a plea at the first opportunity.

District Judge Paul Copeland said at first glance and considering the facts and papers this incident suggested irresponsible, anti-social rural vandalism and was an “affront” to good farm practice.

He said the behaviour was ill judged and unacceptable.

However based on what was said on Fiddis’ behalf by Mr. Fahy, Judge Copeland stayed his hand in making an example of the 61 year old.

Judge Copeland said “happily and fortuitously” there was no damage to aquatic life and there had been no further reports since this incident. Fining Fiddis £1,000, Judge Copeland told the defendant the fine was nominal and that he could have been fined up £20,000 or faced time in prison such was the seriousness of the offence.