Rushton landfill site "should be closed down" over sickening smell

Residents have complained about the odour for years

Tuesday, 28th January 2020, 6:00 am

The stench of rotten eggs from a Rushton landfill site is driving residents around the bend - and a councillor has called for it to be closed down.

Hundreds of complaints have been made to the Environment Agency about the smell from the Mick George Ltd site in Oakley Road, which was unbearable in the summer heat and is still affecting those living nearby in the January cold.

The horrendous smell has been steadily making its way up the A6003 to Great Oakley and Danesholme but air quality tests found there is no risk to public health. Mick George says it is investing to minimise or entirely eliminate the problem in the future.

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The Mick George site in Rushton. Picture by Alison Bagley.

Corby councillor Alexandra Wellings, who lives in Great Oakley, said it isn't good enough.

She said: "The only solution at this point is closing it down. It's been proven that they are unable to contain it [the smell]."

The site takes waste from surrounding counties and pipework takes gases away. But the stench from methane and hydrogen sulphide lingers and has left nearby residents unable to sleep with their windows open.

An online petition calling for immediate action has now attracted almost 800 signatures.

Jon Stump, chief executive officer at the Mick George Group, said: "In recognition of any concerns relating to the emission of odours effecting the Rushton area from our operating facility, we would reiterate that the Mick George Group continue to invest in multiple prevention mechanisms to minimise, if not entirely eliminate, the problem in the future.

"In addition to the existing measures, which include odour suppression systems, increased levels of daily cover, temporary gas extraction system and flares, the imminent installation of an upgraded flare system which offers greater capacity to burn off any excess gas being generated should further improve the situation."

One woman who did not want to be named who lives in Storefield Cottages, just off the A6003 between Corby and Kettering, has reported the smell to the Environment Agency 371 times since 2013. In 2018 alone she called them 100 times.

She said: "We all feel very frustrated. All we want is to live like normal people.

"We just want to breathe clean air. That's not a lot to ask.

"We do not mind that there's a site there. It wouldn't bother us if it was run properly. But this is just disgusting."

Air quality monitoring tests in the surrounding area were conducted last year but will not be continued after Public Health England found there was no health risk.

Mick George says the highest recorded 24-hour mean level of hydrogen sulphide was 4.09mcg per m3. The limit set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) is 150mcg per m3.

An Environment Agency spokesman said: “As this is a regulated site, we conduct regular assessments and suggest improvements where necessary.

"Between February and September last year, we carried out extensive air quality monitoring tests. Following liaison with Public Health England, there are no current plans to continue this.

"We identified that additional improvements should be made to cope with larger volumes of gas from the site and these changes are currently being implemented. If any members of the public want to report an environmental incident, please call our incident hotline number on 0800 807060.”

Air quality nearby worsened last year when two major fires broke out at the site. In July 200 tonnes of waste were involved in a blaze which Mick George said was likely down to a record-breaking heatwave.

A Public Health England spokesman said: “Based on the air quality monitoring we are satisfied that there is no health risk.

"The human nose is very sensitive to odours, and many substances that are perceived as odorous (not just sulphur compounds) are present at levels below which there is any risk to health. However odours can cause nuisance amongst the population possibly leading to stress and anxiety.

"Some people may experience symptoms such as nausea, headaches or dizziness, as a reaction to odours even when the substances that cause those smells are themselves not harmful to health. All efforts should be taken to reduce offsite odours to as low as is reasonably practical by the site.”

The Storefield Cottages resident said: "It's giving us headaches. We are retching. It may not be classed as a health risk but it is making us feel sick.

"We are all being driven around the bend by it."

She added that they have been left unable to use their garden and that they haven't had a barbecue for three or four years because they don't know if they will be able to sit outside when planning an event.

Cllr Wellings criticised the Environment Agency for being "ineffective" and said that residents had effectively been policing it by being forced to call every time the stench became overbearing.

A survey of Great Oakley residents found 96 per cent of respondents wanted immediate action and that 93 per cent said the smell was "strong to sickening".

Cllr Wellings said: "This is is just being ignored on every level.

"It's getting so much worse and nobody is stopping it."