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Meat rendering plant allowed to expand capacity despite complaints of 'rotten' smell over city

The plant had applied to increase its capacity for meat from 375 tonnes of meat per day to 600 tonnes.

THE ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATOR has ruled that a controversial meat rendering plant in Waterford can expand its capacity to process meat carcasses, despite complaints of a smell of “rotten” meat over Waterford city.

However, the plant itself has appealed restrictions imposed on it by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a condition of its permission.

The Journal reported last summer that the agency told Anglo Beef Processors Proteins (ABP) to investigate “non-compliant odours” during inspections of its site.

It followed concerns about the smell of “stewing, rotten meat” over parts of Waterford due to the plant’s holding of animal carcasses. These are animal by-products not intended for human consumption and include the meat and bones from a carcass.

The factory, called Waterford Proteins and which is owned by Co Louth-based businessman Larry Goodman’s ABP Food Group, is located in Christendom, Ferrybank, adjacent to the River Suir.

ABP had separately sought to boost the capacity of its plant to allow it to process 600 tonnes of meat per day – an increase of 60% on the 375 tonnes it currently processes.

It originally applied to the EPA in 2021 to achieve this, with the agency indicating this month that would approve the license the company abides by more than 100 conditions.

These include strict rules around the length of time carcasses can be held at the plant.

However, despite being given permission, the plant has objected to the proposed measures in recent days, blasting them as “irrational”.

It claims that the measures would mean that abattoirs and knackeries will no longer be able to send carcasses to the plant.

In a letter written by the plant’s environmental manager John Durkan listing out its objections to the EPA, the company alleged that the proposed measures could mean it may face fines or even the loss of its license in future.

ABP is also challenging a proposal by the EPA to require a higher base temperature for  equipment that is used for destroying hazardous air pollutants within the animal carcasses.

High Court

The EPA will now appoint a technical committee to consider the application and the company’s objection, with a final decision lying with the agency’s board.

If the standoff between the EPA and the company continues, the issue may need to be settled in the High Court.

The EPA said its proposed determination for the license contains “more than 100 individual conditions” relating to the environmental management, operation, control and monitoring of the facility.

“The EPA is satisfied that the emissions from the installation when operated in accordance with the conditions of the proposed licence will meet all required environmental protection standards and will not endanger human health or harm the environment in the vicinity of the installation or over a wider area,” it said. 

A spokesperson added that the watchdog will monitor and enforce these conditions through environmental audits, unannounced site visits and systematic checks on emissions. 

‘Death and decay’

Last year, concerns were raised by residents and local councils in Waterford and Kilkenny over “odours” which they allege arise from the plant, with the company’s license application drawing almost 90 submissions in total.

Although the facility is located on a side road off Ferrybank, it is within close proximity to housing estates. 

In the list of submissions, locals said there was a “vile” and “putrid” smell in the area, with one woman saying she often can’t hang laundry out to dry because the clean clothes “smell of death and decay” if she does so.

As part of the EPA’s proposal for the plant, ABP will be required to carry out an odour survey of the site’s operations on a “daily” basis. An “odour management plan” also needs to be drafted by the company.

This management plan must outline odour reduction measures, and address the storage and handling of waste and other materials with potential for causing odour. 

The EPA explained to local authorities last summer that “malodourous emissions” at meat rendering plants arise during the intake and processing of animal by-products – that is, the part of an animal carcass not intended for human consumption.

In its proposals for the license, the EPA has asked for the animal carcasses to be transported to the facility “as soon as practicable” with stricter time limits for their disposal from April to September.

The regulator says this should take no longer than 24 hours when the carcass is being brought from a slaughtering facility, and no longer than 48 hours when brought from other facilities.

Any carcasses older than 48 hours “may only be accepted for processing” if refrigeration is provided, the EPA said.

‘Unreasonable and impractical’

However, the company’s environmental manager John Durkan has called such conditions “entirely unreasonable and impractical”.

In a 12-page objection letter, he also says that dead animals must be collected from farms and tested for the presence of disease before they can be transported to the rendering facility – which he claims often takes longer than 48 hours. 

Additionally, Durkan said that as the company receives and processes the material from abattoirs, knackeries and farmers, “it is not possible” for the plant to control or determine the age of each carcass that is delivered. 

He added that imposing the condition could see the company “exposed . . . to criminal liability and sanction”, including fines or a possible suspension of the licence. 

“All of which would arise as a direct result of an external factor, which is entirely outside of the company’s control, or where the company could not ensure it did not commit such an offence,” Durkan said. 

He said the age of any animal carcass “does not prevent the company from processing the material in accordance with the required standards of regulations, and there is no evidence to the contrary”.

Durkan told the EPA that the responsibility lies with it and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to address the length of time producers hold onto carcasses.

A spokesperson for ABP and Waterford Proteins said it has operated in Ferrybank for almost 50 years and that it regularly engages with the EPA. 

They said the company welcomes the EPA’s proposed determination but that it wanted to clarify technical aspects of draft decision, which it said was part of the normal licence review process.

The EPA told The Journal that it a technical committee will consider the application will file a report to the agency’s board which will make a final decision.

“Once a decision has issued, anyone can apply to the High Court and seek a judicial review of the validity of the decision. This must be done within 8 weeks of the decision,” the EPA said.

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