Are smells from site now a health risk?

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Polmont residents reportedly believe the stench from a nearby landfill facility has caused them to develop asthma.

According to Councillor Malcolm Nicol, two of his constituents got in touch with him to complain about the smells coming from the Avondale landfill site and both stated they thought it was the reason behind their recent breathing problems.

Councillor Nicol called for the Scottish Environment Protection Agency to step up and become more active when it came to its role of regulating the site.

He said: “Quite frankly SEPA are guilty of inaction here – it’s just excuses and more excuses. Now some of my constituents have reported they have developed asthma and they believe it is as a result of the smells coming from the landfill.

“People are beginning to get concerned about just what is going on at the site. In the past we have had public meetings about it. People are losing confidence in SEPA over this.”

The Falkirk Herald contacted SEPA this week but the agency had not responded as the newspaper went to press.

A spokesperson for NHS Forth Valley stated yesterday (Wednesday) the area’s public health representatives had not had anyone contact them with any health concerns about the site as yet.

The site, located in Avondale Quarry, has been owned by Wigan-based Whitehead Restoration Ltd – part of the property company NPL Group – since October last year, when it acquired a 100 percent shareholding in Avondale Holdings.

The NPL Group stated the material recycling facility (MRF) at Avondale would provide much needed treatment capacity for the integration of the landfill ban which comes into force in January 2021 and its acquisition was an important milestone in the group’s waste management strategy.

The group also stated it had “exciting ideas to further the growth, service provision and strategic reach of Avondale within Scotland”.

The MRF ceased operations in May 2013 just over one year after it opened, with Avondale chief executive John Holt at the time citing increasing operating costs and a reduction in the volume and market value of recyclable materials for the closure, which resulted in the loss of 70 jobs at the facility.

When it first opened in 2012 it had the capacity to process 200,000 tonnes of waste each year.

Avondale, which also owned the landfill site next to the MRF, charged a gate price to its customers – which included Falkirk Council – to receive and treat municipal, commercial and industrial black bag waste.

Materials such as metals and plastics were sorted from the general waste and sold by Avondale as recyclates, but back in 2013 the firm claimed the market for this type of material has dropped substantially.

Avondale also developed Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) from the remaining waste, which helps avoid the need for landfill.

However, increased disposal costs and a shortage of RDF users five years ago limited Avondale’s opportunities to export the fuel, contributing to “unsustainable operating losses” according to the company.

Polmont residents began complaining about the site before and after the MRF opened, as particularly warm weather in April 2012 led to SEPA being flooded with calls complaining about odours on the M9, the Lathallan roundabout and some residential areas of Polmont, coming from the Avondale landfill site.

SEPA had earlier instructed the operators of Avondale Landfill to carry out a full review of the Landfill Gas Management System as a result of odour issues during December 2011 and January 2012.