Coffs Harbour odours

Results of our investigations into odours, and data gathered by odour detection monitors installed around Englands Road, Coffs Harbour.

The hydrogen sulfide gas data published here is reported in parts per billion (ppb). Other pages may display data in parts per million (ppm). We are using ppb here to make the graphs easier to read. You should check the reporting units (ppb or ppm) if comparing this data to other landfill sites.

Update 2022

In early 2022 we received new odour complaints associated with the Englands Road Waste Management Facility. Complainants described these odours as having different characteristics to those from 2021.

Our investigation determined that although the odour characteristics had changed, the Englands Road Waste Management Facility was the most likely source of odour emissions.

Our officers conducted weekly odour surveys at locations around the facility to determine intensity, persistence, and potential aggravating factors of the odour.

Background

The Englands Road site has been operated as the primary landfill for Coffs Harbour City Council since the 1960s. It consists of an integrated series of waste management activities, which include

  • a sanitary landfill
  • the Coffs Coast Resource Recovery Facility operated by Biomass Solutions (Coffs Harbour) Pty Ltd (the Biomass Facility)
  • a materials recovery facility (MRF)
  • a waste recovery centre
  • a weighbridge office and administration amenities block
  • a truck wash facility
  • a hazardous waste store
  • bulk waste oil store
  • stockpile areas for recyclable metal, fridge degassing, bulk woody/timber wastes.

Odour investigations in 2021

In 2021 we investigated odour emissions impacting members of the local community at the Englands Road Waste Management Facility operated by Coffs Harbour City Council. We put measures in place to reduce the odour impacts on the community, including the addition of pollution reduction programs on the facility’s environment protection licence.

Coffs Harbour City Council conducted works at the landfill to address odour emissions from the site.

Our investigation into potential breaches of legislation and licence requirements is ongoing.

Installation of monitors

In response to community concerns, we installed electronic monitors in late June 2022 to detect hydrogen sulfide gas (rotten egg gas) around the facility 24 hours a day. Information from the monitors, along with odour surveys by our officers and odour reports from the community, help us to monitor odour levels at the landfill facility. 

How do the monitors work?

The monitors are small (about the size of a litre carton of milk) and automatic. They take an air sample every 10 minutes and analyse it for hydrogen sulfide.

They can detect levels as low as 3 parts of hydrogen sulfide per billion parts of air (ppb), and as high as 2000 ppb.

About half of people can smell hydrogen sulfide at a concentration of around 8 ppb, but some people can smell it at 0.5 ppb while others first smell it at 300 ppb.

The monitors are connected to the existing mobile phone network, and every 12 hours they transmit the data collected to us.

The readings will be updated twice a week.

Monitor results

These charts show the concentration detected in each 10-minute sample of air collected by the hydrogen sulphide monitors. If no H2S is detected, the chart will appear empty.


How to read the charts

The charts are interactive and best viewed in full screen mode. Select the menu in the top right-hand corner to enter full screen mode.
Display a smaller or larger date range on the graph by using the blue range selector directly underneath the chart, or by using the Zoom buttons in the top left-hand corner.
Hover over the graphs to view more information relating to the data, for example the exact time and date of the data point.
To exit full screen mode click escape or move to the top of the screen to display and select the X.

Do the odours cause health impacts?

(Information provided by NSW Health)

People can smell hydrogen sulphide at low levels. About half of people can smell hydrogen sulphide at a concentration of around 8 parts hydrogen sulphide per billion parts of air (ppb). There is variability in this however – some people can smell it at 0.5 ppb while others first smell it at 300 ppb.

Exposure to these low concentrations of hydrogen sulphide may cause irritation to the eyes, nose or throat, and difficulties in breathing in people with asthma. Repeated exposures at these levels can also understandably cause anxiety and distress and result in indirect symptoms such as headaches and nausea.

These effects are likely to be minor and temporary and should stop once the air quality improves.

Hydrogen sulphide once it enters the body does not accumulate as it is rapidly processed in the liver and excreted in the urine.

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.

People who work in some industries are at risk of exposure to higher levels of hydrogen sulphide than the general population.

Reporting odours

Community reports can play an import role in our investigation of odours.

Important information on odours can be recorded using the odour log sheet (PDF 160KB).

If you are experiencing odour impacts please contact the 24-hour Environment Line on 131 555 or email info@epa.nsw.gov.au.