FIVE people have appeared in court charged in connection with a pollution incident in Bolton-by-Bowland in August of last year when 2,700 fish were killed.

Blackburn magistrates heard that the fish died of oxygen starvation after slurry had run off fields into Gill Bottom Beck and then into Kirk Beck.

Brian Miller Booth, 63, and James Booth, 31, both of Raygill Moss Farm, Bolton-by-Bowland, pleaded guilty to causing polluting matter to enter the watercourse. Michael David Cornthwaite and Heather Anne Cornthwaite, both of Closes Hall Farm, Bolton-by-Bowland, and Andrew James Long, of Hayber Farm, Nappa, Hellifield, pleaded not guilty to the same charge.

Richard Bradley, prosecuting on behalf of the Environment Agency, said officers had been alerted to the pollution after reports of dead fish in Kirk Beck. They worked their way upstream and saw many dead fish and saw pollutant which they considered to be cow slurry. The officers took samples as they worked up stream, tracing the pollution into Gill Bottom Beck which was discoloured, foaming and had a scum along its length.

The officers traced the source of the slurry to a field belonging to the Booth's and one belonging to the Cornthwaites, which the prosecution said had recently been treated with cow slurry by Long in his capacity as a contractor.

Mr Bradley said that above the two fields the stream was clear of pollutants. He said cow slurry was very demanding of oxygen in water and the fish would simply have suffocated. He said the bodies of more than 2,700 fish were recovered including brown trout, chub, minnows and stone loach.

Mr Bradley said the prosecution maintained there was equal contribution to the pollution by all parties.

"It is now necessary for the prosecution to show a particular level of pollution or what the pollutant was," said Mr Bradley. "It is clear from the observations made on site that pollutant matter entered the water course from these two fields and we say it is as simple as that."

The case, which is being heard by district judge Paul Firth, overran its allotted time at Blackburn magistrates and was adjourned, part-heard to Preston magistrates court on July 3 when Mr Firth will hear evidence from defence witnesses and mitigation on behalf of the Booths.