Suffolk: Composting firm fined �20,000 for unpleasant smells

OPERATORS of a composting site have today been fined �20,000 for causing smells described as being akin to ‘vomit’ and ‘diarrhoea’.

Ipswich-based County Mulch admitted allowing the offensive smells off site between August 10, 2009, and February 5, 2010.

Appearing before magistrates today in Bury St Edmunds - the town nearest their Stanton-based composting facility - the company was also ordered to pay costs of �13,873.

Anne-Lise McDonald, prosecuting for the Environment Agency, said the smells had breached the company’s environmental permit.

She said that neighbours had a right to expect that operators’ activities at such a site would not detract from their quality of life.


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The court heard that during 2009 the agency received 206 odour complaints about the composting site at Shepherds Grove Industrial Estate, Stanton, compared to 21 in 2007 and 5 in 2008. In 2010 there were 50 complaints between January 1 and February 4.

One retired couple from Hepworth, about a mile away, said that in 2009 the smells became more frequent and was ‘putrid, overpowering and suffocating’, the court was told.

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They were worried about their health because of it and one of them had been prescribed a drug to ease the nausea brought on by the smell.

Mrs McDonald said Agency officers had frequently found composting liquor and sludge stagnating on the floor of the buildings and in the yard.

On one particular visit on August 11 an officer saw the reception and processing shed was very full and apart from recent deposits, much of the waste in the reception building was old and decomposing and had either been on site for too long or had been in transfer for too long.

“The building was so full the officer had trouble passing by the odorous material. The floor in the building was in poor condition with sludgy liquid pooling around the piles and there was a foul odour,” she said.

An odour review, commissioned by County Mulch on the advice of the Agency, identified a number of sources of emissions from the operations and equipment including ineffective biofilters, poor fan sequencing, no air extraction or abatement in the shredding and screening areas, and no odour abatement on the leachate collection tank and lagoon.

Mrs McDonald said that even after this there were smells coming from the composting site for another few months. In February 2010, even though there was a reduced amount of waste there, the site was fairly dirty with some areas covered in compost sludge and there were a number of odours, odorous steam venting from the biofilter, steam rising from many locations and the concrete area in the reception building was in poor condition resulting in effluent ponding in areas around the waste and adding to the smells.

Paul Sheridan, for County Mulch, said the management and shareholders of the company had changed since the offence was committed. He said the company had spent nearly �300,000 on improvements at the site, including measures to prevent odours.

After the hearing agency officer Tim Wojcik said: “Companies such as County Mulch perform an important role in diverting waste from landfills but still have a responsibility to operate in a way that does not impact negatively on their neighbours.

“A great deal of Environment Agency resource has been spent in monitoring the site’s activities, advising the company and liaising with the public over this issue.

“Since that time significant changes have occurred within the company management and on the site in an attempt to improve odour control. The Environment Agency is continuing to work with the company.”

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