My neighbour spread slurry and ruined the road - what can I do?

Our resident solicitor tackles the issue of when it's OK to spread slurry

Can farmers spread slurry whenever they want? Photo: O'Gorman Photography
Can farmers spread slurry whenever they want? Photo: O'Gorman Photography

Dear Karen, my neighbour spread slurry on St Stephen’s Day. While I don’t object to their dedication to farming and their work ethic, they spread the slurry from the road as the field was too wet to drive the tractor and slurry tanker into it!

The road was destroyed after it, I discovered when I went for a walk. Is this legal or can I complain to the council?

Dear Mary,

I am sorry to hear that. It is a difficult situation as you have no issue with your neighbours personally but at the same time you are not happy with the condition of the road. There are a number of issues here.  

Air Pollution Regulations

Air Quality in Ireland is governed by the Air Pollution Act 1987.  Air Quality Standards are set in the Air Quality Standards Regulations 2011.

The land spreading of organic fertiliser is a recognised normal and beneficial activity in agriculture.  Odours will arise and factors affecting odour can be from fertiliser type, weather conditions and the duration of the activity. 

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There are no regulations specifying the distance within which spreading of organic fertiliser can occur in relation to a dwelling.  It is for the Local Authority to take action under these air pollution regulations and you can certainly lodge a complaint with them.

While there have been prosecutions in Ireland for air pollution in relation agriculture, the spreading of slurry has remained unaffected. Evidence given by local authority engineers, concerns what they smell, which is by its nature, subjective as we can only describe in words what our nose experiences.  The frequency of occurrences is also a factor considered.

Water Pollution Regulation

The EU (Good Agricultural Practice for Protection of Waters) Regulations 2014 specify buffer zones in relation to water supplies and/or watercourses, dry open drains, lake shore line, slopes, water for human consumption for 50 plus or 500 plus or more people and streams.

Where houses have a private well, organic fertiliser or soiled water shall not be applied to land within 25m of any borehole, spring, or well used for the abstraction of water for human consumption (greater buffer distances of 100m and 200m apply to larger scale abstractions).

Local Authorities and the Environmental Protection Agency have had successful prosecutions in relation to agricultural water pollution.


Spreading of slurry from the road into fields is illegal.

The Department of Environment, Community and Local Government is the department with responsibility for the implementation the European Union (Good Agricultural Practice for Protection of Waters) Regulations 2014, commonly known as the Nitrates Regulations.  Article 18 (2) (4) (d) of the Nitrates Regulations prohibits the application to land of organic fertilisers from a road adjacent to the land.

Under Section 13(10) of the Roads Act 1993 it is an offence to allow material to remain on a public road where doing so would cause a hazard or potential hazard to people using the road and obstruct or interfere with the safe use of the road.  There have been occasions when roads have been closed for cleaning, to protect public safety.

In 2011, Cork County Council threatened to enforce The 1993 Roads Act (Section 73) against farmers whose animal manure was left on roadways.  This would entitle them to extinguish rights of ways.

The Farmers

Farmers have to consider a large number of factors when spreading slurry.  There are schemes such as GLAS (designed to encourage farming which protects the environment), Basic Payment Scheme, Nitrates Directives, Cross Compliance Requirements, Health & Safety Regulations as well as weather and the hiring of machinery.

Spreading slurry is prohibited during winter in Ireland to comply with the Nitrates Directive.  Depending on where in the country you live, the open dates are from January to September and usually the closed period is October/ November. December is the one month when slurry spreading is prohibited nationwide.  The aim is to have the nitrates available to plants during Spring and to protect ground and surface water, including drinking water.  The regulations prohibit such application at any time of the year when the ground is frozen, waterlogged or heavy rain is forecast. 

To receive a payment under the Basic Payment Scheme farmers must follow a variety of regulations on the environment, public health, animal health, plant health, animal welfare and land maintenance called Cross Compliance. The Department of Agriculture applies penalties where non-compliance is determined in the case of slurry spreading during inspections or as a result of Cross Reports received by the Department.  Farmers can also incur severe penalties in their farm payments should they be caught spreading slurry during the closed period.


You can lodge a complaint regarding the safety on the road and request that the Local Authority clean it.

You can complain the breaches in the Nitrates Regulations to the Department of Agriculture. The farmer’s income could well be significantly affected so be aware, this is likely not to foster good relations. I would recommend approaching the farmer and discussing the issue.  They will likely explain they had little choice. 

Karen Walsh, of Walsh & Partners, Solicitors, comes from a farming background and is a solicitor specialising in agricultural law, land law and renewable energy and is author of ‘Farming and the Law’ available from The firm also specialises in personal injuries, employment law and family law. She has offices in Dublin and Cork. For further information please contact 01-602000 or 021-4270200. 



Disclaimer: While every care is taken to ensure accuracy of information contained in this article, Solicitor Karen Walsh does not accept responsibility for errors or omissions howsoever arising, and you should seek legal advice in relation to your particular circumstances at the earliest possible time.  

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