Rivers and watercourses in Eden have been threatened by some of the most serious farm pollution incidents recordable by the Environment Agency, newly uncovered information has revealed.

The district is among the worst affected areas in the country in terms of the frequency of the incidents and their capacity to cause significant environmental damage.

New data unveiled by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and shared with The Cumberland News shows the rural district suffered nine category one and two accidents between 2011 and 2016.

They were among 536 recorded across the UK.

Category one incidents are those that can cause a major environmental impact while those that fall under category two have the potential to cause significant harm.

In Eden, England's least densely populated district, they all relate to the escape of slurry/dilute slurry or silage liquors from farms, substances known to have a catastrophic effect upon wildlife once they enter rivers and streams.

Jo Spencer, acting director for Eden Rivers Trust, an organisation that works to protect the health of fresh water courses throughout the area, explained it had been working with farmers for some time to offer advice and help prevent agricultural pollution incidents from occurring.

"Pollution incidents can have a devastating impact on the fish and invertebrate populations in our rivers that in turn affect the whole food chain," she said.

"Our vision of having healthy rivers for all focuses on reducing the likelihood of such incidents occurring in the first place."

Ms Spencer added: "For a number of years now we have been working closely with farmers and landowners on key tributaries of the Eden to find sustainable solutions that prevent or reduce diffuse pollution from the farmyard to the river, taking advantage of the latest thinking in farming techniques and practice as well as technological innovations."

Neighbouring South Lakeland suffered the only other serious farm pollution incident in Cumbria, which took place in 2010, though 112 category three and four incidents - pollution that can cause minor harm to the environment - were also recorded over the six year period.

Of these, 44 occurred in Eden, 35 in Carlisle and 33 in Allerdale.

Magistrates can impose fines of up to £50,000 upon farmers successfully prosecuted for pollution incidents.

However, the number of cases taken forward to court is thought to be in the minority.

Agricultural pollution - The facts

:: Incidents of pollution from farms are recorded by the Environment Agency.

:: They are ranked between one and four on a scale of seriousness - with one being the most serious and capable of causing major damage to the environment, and four being the least harmful.

:: Slurry is a mixture of animal waste and water and other biological liquids. It is harmful if it enters rivers and streams, starving fish and other waterlife of oxygen.

:: Silage liquors is liquid that has escaped from stored silage. It is one of the strongest pollutants that occurs in farms. It is highly corrosive, can disolve cement and can devastate streams and water courses.