Questions and answers about odours in the Tarago area

What is the odour?

Veolia is required to engage an independent consultant to carry out an odour audit each year under the requirements of their planning approvals. The independent consultant found landfill gas to be primarily composed of methane (50.7%, odourless), carbon dioxide (47.2%, odourless), hydrogen sulphide (around 1%, rotten-egg smell) and other trace gases (less than 1%).

The next annual odour audit report is due to be completed and submitted to the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment by 30 June 2021.

Information about the audits can be found on the licensee’s website.

Can the odour affect my health?

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)

Is the rainwater in my tank safe?

Generally yes. There is currently no evidence that the Woodlawn bioreactor landfill presents a risk to the quality of rainwater in rainwater tanks. 

A properly maintained rainwater tank can provide good quality drinking water. Providing the rainwater is clear, has little taste or smell and is from a well-maintained water catchment system it is probably safe and unlikely to cause any illness for most users. People who use rainwater for drinking and cooking should always be aware of potential risks associated with microbiological and chemical contamination, regardless of where they live in NSW. 

The EPA does not test the quality of rainwater in private rainwater tanks. If you wish to have some water tested your local NSW Health Public Health Unit can help you find a NATA accredited laboratory.

Further information on rainwater tanks is available from NSW Health.

What is an offensive odour?

An odour may be considered offensive if it is harmful or if it interferes unreasonably with the comfort of a person outside of the landfill.

Odour from Woodlawn bioreactor landfill is regulated by the EPA. Odours may be experienced near, or downwind from the landfill. Veolia is required to prevent any offensive odours from leaving its premises.

Does weather change odour?

Yes. The time of year can make a difference to the intensity of odours. During autumn, temperature inversions can trap odours close to the ground. These odours can travel long distances under light breezes before being diluted. Odours vary depending on weather conditions and on individual perceptions of odour.

What are the roles of the NSW Government agencies?

The Woodlawn bioreactor landfill is regulated by the EPA. Veolia holds an environment protection licence issued by the EPA. The licence places strict conditions on the landfill, including operating, monitoring and reporting requirements. This includes the monitoring of odour and air quality.

Woodlawn bioreactor landfill is also regulated by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment under conditions of planning approvals.

NSW Health provides advice on the effective management of potential human health risks and assists with communicating these risks to the public. NSW Health does not have a regulatory role in the Woodlawn bioreactor landfill.

The EPA is working closely with NSW Health and the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment to address odour impacts.