Will Farm Insurance Cover Spills And Leaks From Slurry Tanks?

Caeva O'Callaghan | August 31st, 2021

An environmental hazard is a serious matter on farms. But will your farm insurance cover you if your slurry leaks?

Axa and Aviva will cover this, Zurich will not. You will need environmental liability cover to protect yourself and your business if your slurry tank leaks.

It is automatically included on some policies, and not on others. Some providers offer it, and some don’t give you the option.

In this article, we’ll cover the following:

  • What is environmental liability cover?
  • Why is a slurry leak dangerous?
  • How can I stop my slurry tank leaking?

Farming involves working with many hazardous materials, slurry included. Read on to find out more about how a leak may affect your insurance.

What is environmental liability cover?

We only deal in farm insurance policies that cover environmental damage resulting from a chemical or pollutant hazard. Axa and Aviva provide this cover as standard. Axa also gives this cover for contamination of your own land as well as third party land, lakes and rivers.

The technical name for environmental insurance is Environmental Impairment Liability (EIL) insurance. This is the part of your policy responsible for covering the costs relating to an incident of pollution on your farm. It protects your business against claims, but it also protects the environment from unnecessary harm.

EIL insurance can cover you for risks such as:

  • Environment Agency clean-up costs
  • Any damages that you are ordered to pay from impacted businesses or individuals
  • The cost of defending your claim
  • Claims arising from environmental impairment

You may be able to find cover that protects you from a date in the past, even if you had prior cover from another insurer. This gives you more comprehensive protection in the event of a gradual incident.

Why is a slurry leak dangerous?

Slurry is a toxic material. It’s broken down by bacterial action which produces gases including methane, carbon monoxide, ammonia and hydrogen sulphide, all of which can create a risk to human and animal health. Some of these gases are flammable, others are toxic. Yet others will even displace oxygen from the air, causing a risk of asphyxiation.

But toxic gas risks aren’t the worst thing about slurry: drowning is by far the most common cause of death involving this common farm material. In the period 2000-2010, 30% of child fatal accidents on Irish farms were caused by drowning in slurry or water. In the same period, 8% of deaths to elderly farmers were caused by drowning.

A slurry leak can be an indicator that the structure housing the slurry store is in need of repair. This means you have a potentially unsafe structure on your property.

Slurry is full of valuable nutrients, which is why it’s useful on a farm. However, phosphorus within the slurry can be washed into bodies of water which causes harmful algae growth, and nitrogen can be depleted through gaseous emissions.

How can I stop my slurry tank leaking?

Catastrophic collapse of both concrete and metal slurry towers have occurred, with disastrous consequences to people and livestock. You need to make sure your slurry storage facilities are properly maintained at all times by closely monitoring their condition.

Indications that your slurry tower needs replacement or repairs include:

  • Small leaks
  • Bowing or cracking on the outside skin
  • Joint deterioration
  • Flaking concrete
  • Corrosion on the surface or the underside

These are symptoms of a tower or slurry system which, if not leaking already, will almost certainly sprout leaks in the near future. Contact the manufacturer, installer or a competent, experienced professional and never attempt any repairs you cannot handle yourself.

Slurry can pose a huge environmental risk if mismanaged, spread too close to watercourses or comes into contact with members of the public or livestock. Always follow regulations when working with slurry, as the consequences are undesirable at best, and fatal at worst.

Not sure how you stand with your insurance regarding slurry and environmental liability? Contact our farm insurance experts for more information.








All Information in this post is accurate as of the date of publishing.