In a previous release we highlighted that members of the community have made close to a thousand complaints to NIEA about nusciance odour from the plant in the last five years. The rule of thumb in these things is that only one in thirty people impacted will make the effort to complain, so an already alarming number of complaints most probably just highlights the tip of the iceberg.
It should be noted that odour from the plant was precipitating hundreds of complaints before the incinerator planning application was lodged, so this isn't just another example of NiMBYism. In fact, older people in the community are quick to emphasize that the stink from the Knackery has been a feature of the area since the 1950s.
Over the last few years we became increasingly aware of senior citizens in around the plant complaining of chest pains and shortness of breath in conjunction with the odor and plume. The quote below is extracted from an email my mother sent to the NIEA regulator a few months ago.
There has been an absolutely awful odour from UFBP during the night – like smoke from a bonfire overlaid with a smell like grease that’s gone on fire, or burning plastic. Again the odour permeated the house. I’ve been coughing and clearing my throat all night so much so that I have a raw throat and sore chest this morning. There are huge clouds of white smoke billowing up from the taller chimneys and the blustery wind is bringing them down to below tree level. These billowing clouds of smoke were visible during the night even though it was and is overcast. Recent heavy rain has given respite from the odour. This is a totally unacceptable way for people to have to live their lives.”
This horrified me, and we repeatedly emphasized to both Minister Poots and the Regulator that they need to get to the bottom of it. We also started pressing them to disclose the monitoring data so we could understand the actual chemical content of the plume to fully assess the health risks posed to the pensioners in our community, and everyone else for that matter!
Thomas Burns MLA recently raised the issue in an assembly question, the answer is included below. The bottom line, despite fifty years of problems and close to a thousand complaints in the last five years, the NIEA regulator doesn't have detailed empirical data on the chemical contents of the plume and odour from the UFBP Plant, hasn't done a detailed study of the emissions and Minister Poots doesn't see this as a priority!
I'm left with the impression that we live in a 'Banana Republic' where commercial interests can do whatever they like; there is nothing that we (the community) can do about it; and the Minister views any impact on our parents and grand parents as collateral damage!
Ulster Farm By-Products Factory at Ballyvannon Road, Glenavy
Mr T Burns asked the Minister of the Environment whether the Northern Ireland Environment Agency is aware of the precise chemical composition of the plume and odour caused by the processing and incineration operations at the Ulster Farm By-Products factory at Ballyvannon Road, Glenavy.
Minister of the Environment: The thermal oxidisers at Ulster Farm By-Products treat odorous compounds arising from the process by oxidation at high temperature. The oxidation process breaks down these compounds to form substances such as carbon dioxide, oxides of nitrogen and water. The permit sets a limit for residual volatile organic compounds (VOC) at 20 mg/m 3 and for hydrogen sulphide at 1 part per million by volume.
NIEA has not carried out a full analysis of the chemical composition of the emission to air from the process. It would not be an appropriate use of resources to set permit limits, or monitor for every conceivable compound within the plume. The Agency seeks to ensure the substances of most relevance to the facility are monitored. In this case volatile organic compounds (VOC) and hydrogen sulphide are the most relevant as they are an established proxy for odour. Direct odour measurements have also been carried out by the operator to determine the effectiveness of the thermal oxidisers.
Depending on weather and processing conditions, there may be a visible plume from the thermal oxidisers. This is caused by condensation of water vapour arising from the cooking process.