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'We got one up on them': Wexford sludge row continues as company ordered to cease work

Residents were battling with an “obnoxious” odour for more than two years – now it has emerged the site didn’t have proper planning permission.

Farm equipment spreading the treated sludge on the land in January.
Farm equipment spreading the treated sludge on the land in January.
Image: George Lawlor

AN ONGOING ROW between a waste management company and a community in Wexford has taken a turn as the firm has been ordered to cease work on the site due to the unauthorised change of use of the land.

In March this year, TheJournal.ie highlighted a year-long battle by residents in the Adamstown area to have issues with the “obnoxious” odour caused by the treatment process for the sludge addressed.

Wexford County Council confirmed this week that an enforcement notice was issued on 9 October 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”.

“The notice requires the cessation of the unauthorised change of use of land within five days from the date of issue of the notice,” it said.

A similar enforcement notice was issued to another party involved in the unauthorised development.

Waste management company Enva said it is “complying fully with the planning enforcement notice and has ceased all use of the facility pending a decision by the planning authority”. It has applied for the proper planning permission to use a shed on the land for the stabilisation process which involves the use of lime and for the storage of the end product, which is referred to as biosolids.

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

However the site in Wexford has been the subject of a number of complaints from residents like Catherine Hanley, who previously told TheJournal.ie that the odour was so strong sometimes, people could not leave their homes.

Following dialogue with the council and Enva, it was agreed that the lime stabilisation process would be moved inside to address the odour.

“Things did improve, but there was till an odour there,” Hanley said this week. “My big concern is that what they have done, they may go back to the way they did before.”

Hanley said she is worried about that fact that the company was operating without planning permission.

“I would have given them the benefit of the doubt up until now.”

She said, however, that she considers this enforcement notice, which was issued after complaints from residents when they discovered the correct planning permission was not in place, as a big win for the community.

“We have got one up on Enva now,” she said. “We stand together against them.”

Another local resident, Tom Galway, said that although odour issues with the site have improved, there are still problems when the biosolids are being spread on local fields.

“They have said they were using methods that would mask the odour, but it still smells like holy hell,” he said.

An internal email from a council engineer to Gerry Forde, the head of its Environment Section in October 2016 outlined that he could not get proof of lime purchase or delivery to the site when he visited.

“They don’t seem to have provided details of how much lime is being added to the sludge, and records of the delivery dockets for the lime which has been delivered to the site. So that they can be compared against the quantity of sludge,” he wrote.

He also told Forde that when he visited the site, those carrying out the treatment process “did not notice that the operation generated any heat while the lime was being added and mixed”.

“After all, it needs to go to 70 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes while the process is being carried out,” he continued. “Enva need to be asked to supply this supporting documentation. Stabilised sludge should be realatively inert. And almost no odour should be present during the spreading process.”

Wexford County Council said it has received 14 complaints about the site since June this year. The Environmental Protection Agency has also opened up an investigation file regarding the council’s enforcement response.

In March, the council told this website that a report to the EPA would be issued towards the end of that month or in early April. Residents said they do not believe this has happened yet, and the council did not respond to a query about this report.

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

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