Questions and answers about odours in Minchinbury
On Saturday 8 May, EPA representatives met with community members in Minchinbury Council Carpark to listen to their experiences and answer questions.
A series of written questions were submitted and as many were of a similar nature the answers have been grouped together below.
Why hasn’t the EPA shut Bingo down? Why can’t the EPA stop Bingo from operating until the smell is gone?
Shutting down the site won’t necessarily make the smells go away. The EPA is requiring Bingo to take a series of actions to change how they manage the material coming onto their site and their processes to fix the problem area.
Our staff will be there every day to monitor the changes we have insisted Bingo needs to make, and assess whether these actions have been successful, by conducting daily odour surveys at different times of the day and night, and by reviewing community complaints.
One of the things that Bingo will be doing is using new equipment to capture and destroy odorous landfill gases. They have advised us they are receiving the equipment on-site this week and it will be up and running in the week commencing 17 May.
Should the current actions not fix the odour problem, the EPA will be taking further regulatory action. This could include additional restrictions on waste coming in or stopping waste completely, additional measures to manage landfill gas and wastewater, and fines and /or prosecution.
What actions has the EPA required Bingo to take?
Bingo has been required by the EPA to take a series of actions to stop the smell.
- apply a layer of 300 mm of clean soil across the entire landfill to reduce the potential for odour emissions
- limit the kinds of waste they can accept at the landfill to waste that does not smell
- reduce the area used for active landfill operations
- monitor the landfill gas levels every day it operates, and
- notify the EPA immediately if landfill gas is evident.
Why has it taken so long to fix?
Tracing odours to a source can be notoriously difficult. Odours can travel a long way and are smelt differently by different people. The EPA has proactively engaged odour specialists to assist with tracing the ultimate source of the odour, given the differing reports being received. More than 25 odour surveys have been undertaken around Minchinbury.
The EPA needs solid evidence before ordering a business to take action, and will follow through to make sure any changes made solve the problems.
In the case of Bingo, broken pipes were fixed following the direction in the EPA Clean Up Notice but the smells did not stop. That is why we have made further changes which we expect Bingo to follow immediately.
When will the odours stop?
The steps Bingo is being directed to take by the EPA should bring relief to residents. We will continue our oversight work and monitoring the site and speaking to residents to ensure this issue is resolved.
Are there chemicals going into the water supply?
There is no indication there is any pollution from the site entering local waterways.
Extensive groundwater monitoring is required every 3 months to confirm that the landfill is not impacting on local groundwater. The results must be published on Bingo’s website
Do the odours cause health impacts?
The most common gases causing odours from landfill sites are ammonia and hydrogen sulphide (‘rotten egg’ smell). While people can detect these gases, they do not tend to cause health effects at low levels.
However, repeated exposures to landfill gases can cause coughing, irritation of eyes, nose and throat, headaches, nausea and breathing difficulties. Symptoms tend to disappear once exposure to these gases stop. People with asthma may be more sensitive to these gases and should follow their asthma management plan.
To minimise exposure to odours, residents are advised to close doors and windows and seal entry points. At times of no, or low odour levels, it is important to ventilate your home to prevent build-up of odours in indoor air.
If residents are concerned about their symptoms or if symptoms persist once the odours have ceased, they should seek advice from their local General Practitioner.
(Information provided by NSW Health)
This is a matter for the NSW Government.