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Farmers demanding compensation after flooding hits Taunton
1:30pm Wednesday 13th June 2012 in News
FARMERS near Taunton whose land has been devastated by floods costing them many thousands of pounds are demanding compensation.
The Environment Agency has been pumping millions of litres of water off fields around North Curry and Stoke St Gregory back into the River Tone since a deluge at the end of the second wettest April on record.
But the remaining standing water has mixed with rotting vegetation to produce a deadly cocktail which is lethal to wildlife and crops, and it may be years before the 60 farmers affected can grow anything on their fields.
Gerald Venn, of Laburnum Farm, Stoke St Gregory, said of the murky water sitting on his fields: “It kills everything, even the worms in the ground.”
Mr Venn, who has lost 90 acres and is having to sell about 60 of his herd of 250 cattle, estimates that the flood damage has cost him around £200 per acre – £18,000 in total.
Dairy farmer Peter House, of Dykes Farm, Stoke St Greg-ory, and beef farmer Tom Jeanes, of Lawnmoor Farm, North Curry, have both lost around 40 acres.
Mr House said: “This will cost me about £10,000. I’ve never known as much damage as this.”
Mr House and Mr Jeanes argued that their fields would not have flooded so badly if the River Tone had been better looked after over the years.
They say silt and vegetation have built up, slowing the river’s flow, and putting more pressure on the Curry and Hay Moor Reservoir.
Mr Jeanes said farmers should now be compensated – a view shared by Stoke St Gregory district councillor Gill Slattery, who told the County Gazette: “With global warming we’re going to get more summers like this, and farmers should be compensated by central government, either through the Environment Agency or DEFRA.”
He said their land had become a “sea of foul-smelling mud which is unusable for farming”.
He said: “In future we need to try to reduce the time the moors spend covered by flood water.
“With more development in and around Taunton the fear is that the flooding east of the town will get worse.
“I’m working to try to tackle these problems. We need Agricultural Minis-ters and the Environment Agency on board to deal with the severe problems”.
The Environment Agency says it removed 10½million of the 11million cubic metres of water lying on the moor “faster than ever before” by using large mobile pumps brought in from other regions.
But the last 500,000 cubic metres are proving “problematic” because they have mixed with rotting vegetation and lost much of their oxygen, meaning they could kill fish if pumped back untreated into the River Tone.
An Agency spokesman said: “The Environment Agency is, therefore, performing a ‘balancing act’ between trying to remove the remaining floodwater as quickly as possible to help farmers, and avoiding widespread damage to rivers.
“We are aerating the floodwaters and treating them with hydrogen peroxide.”
As well as describing the terrible stench caused by the standing water, villagers in Curload and Stoke St Gregory have told the County Gazette they have seen dead fish floating down the Tone in recent weeks, and say other wildlife, including herons, otters and kingfishers, have disappeared.
However, the Environment Agency denied suggestions that hydrogen peroxide posed any risk to wildlife.