Water pollution (see also: Procedure) - Savage v Fairclough (10 March 1998) High Court, Queen's Bench Division

United Kingdom
Mr Savage farmed land adjacent to Mr Fairclough's farm and obtained water from a spring. The Court found as fact that the water supply was contaminated with nitrates. The Court also accepted that a substantial cause of this contamination had been the farming practices of Mr Fairclough. Mr Savage sought to recover damages for nuisance by applying Cambridge Water v Eastern Counties Leather [1994] 1 All ER 53. Mr Fairclough had used chemical fertilisers since 1979 and deposited pig and other manure from 1980. His practices had altered over time following good practice guidance until 1991 when there were no pigs left on the farm. The Court held that Mr Fairclough was not liable for nuisance. Applying Cambridge Water v Eastern Counties Leather the Court held that a 'reasonable user' was a farmer who complied with good practice guidance available at the time. The Court found that Mr Fairclough had operated his farm in accordance with such guidance. Moreover, Mr Savage had to establish that the harm was foreseeable. Following Cambridge Water v Eastern Counties Leather the test was whether an appropriate notional person fit to run the business would have foreseen the harm of his practices at the time (in this case 'a good farmer'). Although the effects of nitrates were generally known in the mid-1980s, a good farmer would not have known of this before 1991. The Court held that the harm was not foreseeable and that Mr Fairclough was not liable for nuisance. ([1998] NPC 36)