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Planning denied for controversial Wexford sludge site over 'risk to public health'

Locals had objected to the application due to odour issues and concerns about the treatment process.

A lime storage silo at the site.
A lime storage silo at the site.

PLANNING PERMISSION FOR the use of a site in Co Wexford for the treatment of sewage sludge has been denied as a row between the waste management company and locals comes to a head.

In its refusal, Wexford County Council said the proposed development was considered “unacceptable on public health grounds”.

In March this year, TheJournal.ie highlighted a then year-long battle by residents in the Adamstown area to have what they described as an “obnoxious” odour caused by the treatment process for the sludge addressed.

Last month, Wexford County Council confirmed an enforcement notice was issued to the landowners at Misterin in relation to “unauthorised development consisting of the change of use of land for the storage of biosolids for use as an organic fertiliser”.

Waste management company Enva was ordered to cease work at the site and the owner applied for planning permission to use a shed for the treatment and storage of the product.

Sludge is the byproduct of household wastewater after it has passed through a treatment plant. This substance, once treated with lime, is called biosolids and considered a nutrient rich fertiliser and is spread on farmland across the country.

Yesterday the council published its decision on the application, listing a number of reasons for refusal. In total there were 18 objections from local residents in relation to the use of the shed for the treatment process.

The report notes that untreated wastewater sludge “may contain bacteria, viruses, parasites and other potentially disease-causing microorganisms, heavy metals and a variety of organic micropollutants”.

The council’s planning section notes that during a site inspection, “the odour experienced was significant”. It goes on to say that having regard to the inadequate information contained in the application, the development has the potential to have negative impacts on the residential amenity and “poses a risk to the environment and public health”.

Local resident Catherine Hanley has previously said the odour was sometimes so bad, she was unable to leave her home.

You could get it maybe twice a day, you could get it all day long. I can’t say there is a certain time of the day when it’s there and a time when it’s not. The May bank holiday last year, we were locked in all weekend.

“It would be a kind of sweet, sour smell, very much like amonia, that kind of penetrating odour that goes up your nostrils. A heavy odour that stays with you,” she said.

The council’s planning report also references concerns about the water-tightness and drainage of an area outside the shed for which planning permission was sought.

gully Source: Wexford County Council

“On day of inspection, it was apparent there was a considerable amount of biosolids evident on the ground outside the entrance door to the storage shed”.

The council’s environment section has previously expressed concern about the lack of information about the volume of lime delivered to the site or about the actual process being performed on the site.

In order for the sludge to be properly treated, it needs to be heated to 70 degrees Celsius or 30 minutes while the lime is being added. There should be almost no odour present once this complete and the biosolids are spread on the land.

In this new planning report, inadequate information about lime delivery volumes is again referenced. It notes that no details on volumes of lime used and exact duration of methods of liming have been included in the application.

“The timing of the lime application and the heat generated are crucial to ensure sufficient exothermic reaction occurs to destroy all microbiological activity,” it says.

Senior planner Diarmuid Houston also notes that local residents are “experiencing continuing problems regarding the operation of the use” of the site.

“The potential pollution and odour issues need further detailed assessment and that the [sic] impacts may require improved mitigation measures.”

Read: ‘We got one up on them’: Wexford sludge row continues as company ordered to cease work>

Related: Wexford residents in battle over ‘obnoxious’ sewage sludge odour>

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