A landfill site operator has been fined £10,500 for failing to stop offensive odours being detected off site on 17 separate occasions and prompting hundreds of complaints.
WRG Waste Services Ltd, which operates the Greengairs site in North Lanarkshire, pled guilty at Airdrie Sheriff Court to failing to comply with a condition of its waste permit, in that it failed to ensure that odours do not become detectable beyond the site boundary.
The matter was investigated by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and a report was subsequently sent to the Procurator Fiscal. The fine was reduced from £14,000 for an early plea.
SEPA began receiving complaints about offensive odours in October 2010 and carried out repeated visits. On “numerous occasions” officers detected odours beyond the boundary and traced them back to a particular cell within the landfill. The cause was being identified as the escape of landfill gas.
In December 2010 WRG was warned that further instances of offensive odours being detected outside the boundary could result in SEPA taking enforcement action. In early January 2011 the operator advised that work on capping the cell would be starting, which should reduce the odour, but no timescale was given and the complaints continued. SEPA then served an enforcement notice requiring the company to complete work to resolve the problem and to bring the site in line with its permit conditions by March 2011.
Jim Clothier, SEPA’s investigating officer, said: “The local communities in the vicinity of the landfill were severely impacted by the activities carried out at WRG Waste Services Limited’s Greengairs site. Our records show that between November 7, 2010 and March 16, 2011 over 200 complaints were received from the local community, an exceptionally high number of public complaints by any standards.
“Although the offensiveness of any odour is subjective, there is a distinctive unpleasantness in having to endure offensive landfill gas odours at one’s home. Many complainants advise that the offensive odours enter their homes and linger.”
He added: “Work to stop the release of landfill gas was completed in March 2011. However, it should not have taken a statutory enforcement notice to ensure that work to properly address the problem was carried out, especially given the unprecedented level of public complaint and obvious effect the odours were having on local residents.”
Before sentencing, procurator fiscal depute Kate Fleming read to the court excerpts from statements by local residents. One stated: “The smell was so bad I had to pull my quilt over my head. The smell has made me feel sick and I have often woken up in the morning with a sore head.”
Another resident complained: “The odours were like methane and rotten eggs. These odours would make me feel sick and induce headaches.”
“…being a permit holder in terms of regulation 6 of the aftermentioned regulations, did fail to comply with a condition of said permit which stated that waste operations shall be carried out so that offensive odours from the permitted installation, in the opinion of an authorised SEPA officer, do not become detectable beyond the boundaries of the permitted installation…offensive odours from the permitted installation were detected by authorised SEPA officers outside the site boundary contrary to the Pollution Prevention and Control (Scotland) Regulations 2000 Regulation 30(1)(b) as amended, and the Pollution Prevention and Control Act 1999 Section 2”