Mr Charles Burrell - the Knepp Castle Estate

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Mr Charles Burrell
Knepp Castle, Home Farm
Knepp Castle
West Grinstead
Horsham
West Sussex
RH13 8LJ
Proposed Landfill Site South-West of Knepp Wildland Project
Dear Charlie
I would like to point out a few examples of purely veterinary concerns regarding the proposed Landfill site
at Thakeham.
1. Direct pollution effects. The waste is described as non-toxic, so presumably heavy metals and the
products of plastic combustion such as dioxins will not be present: has this been guaranteed? Nontoxic waste is likely to degrade with the release of nitrogenous compounds. Nitrates accumulate in
deep soil water and, particularly after a drought, pasture plants may contain toxic levels. Nitrates
are toxic, but in the plant are reduced to nitrites which are far more toxic. Grazing animals are
susceptible. Pigs are most sensitive; followed by cattle, sheep, and horses. Nitrite poisoning is
unpredictable, because normally nutritious plants become toxic. Affected animals are likely to die
within hours, because of haemoglobin destruction.
2. Indirect pollution effects. An increase in the nitrogen content of the ground water will inevitably
be reflected in surface water. One aspect of the Knepp project has been the de-canalisation of the
Adur, re-establishing meanders and slowing the water flow. This has benefits in reducing the risk
of flooding in builtup areas downstream, but it reduces the rate at which local nitrogenous
pollutants are diluted, increasing the risk of eutrophication. The ecological impact of this is for
others to assess, but from an animal health point of view eutrophication favours the growth of
toxic algae (Microcystis Spp). All animals and birds are susceptible. When the algae are present
animals cannot escape ingesting them when drinking. As to the seriousness of the poison, there are
two recognised syndromes: the “Slow death form” and the “Fast death form”!
3. Introduction of pathogens. Landfill waste is likely to include spoiled food, and a variety of
bacterial pathogens may be present. Those of veterinary significance include Listeria Sp,
Escerischia coli, Salmonella, Clostridium Sp, and Shigella. It should be remembered that the 2001
Foot-and-Mouth Disease epizootic has been directly attributed to processed food waste.
4. Introducing vectors of disease. The presence of waste material is likely to attract animals capable
of transmitting disease. Apart from the obvious, flies feeding on dead animal tissue can
accumulate toxins from the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, and when consumed by birds can
cause mortality on a large scale. Waterfowl are most commonly affected in the UK.
5. Changes in the local fauna. Increased visits by opportunists such as seagulls, crows, and magpies
are possible. This increases the risk of introduction of pathogens from elsewhere (such as
Campylobacter Sp, a cause of serious gastrointestinal disease in all animals and birds, and of
“abortion storms” in cattle) and of distribution of pathogens already present in the site. Other fauna
may increase in local population, such as rats, which may spread diseases such as Leptospirosis (a
cause of liver and kidney damage, as well as abortion, in most mammals including cattle, dogs and
humans), Yersiniosis (a relative of the Plague bacillus which I regularly encounter in deer in
Sussex) and Tularaemia. Species already present may undergo changes in behaviour, becoming
scavengers where previously they were predators. An increase in the fox population would have
effects on survival of newborn pigs and deer, as well as on wild prey species. Changes in badger
numbers and behaviour could have serious implications, as they are an important vector of bovine
Tuberculosis. The Knepp project is not far from the current Sussex Tuberculosis hotspot on the
South Downs
Yours sincerely,
Rob Reynolds BVSc Cert ZooMed MRCVS
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