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‘You can’t breathe’: Foul smell leaves business owners on the brink

Article image for ‘You can’t breathe’: Foul smell leaves business owners on the brink

The neighbours of a very smelly pet food company say authorities are buck-passing their concerns.

A Hawkesbury business is believed to be the source of an odour which makes those downwind of it nauseous, as well as an infestation of pests such as rats, snakes and feral cats.

Chris* owns a neighbouring business, and told Jim Wilson the odour can be so powerful he’s been forced to send staff home for the sake of their health.

“It’s that bad it smells worse than [a] burnt meat, rotten fish smell.

“You can’t breathe. It’s like you’re being gassed.”

Chris has complained on multiple occasions to the local council and Environment Protection Authority (EPA), who have not been able to detect an ‘off-site’ odour in their last six surveys.

The EPA say the company has been issued several warnings and cautions over problems identified at the site (full statement below).

Hawkesbury City Council say they are preparing to investigate the vermin issue and will communicate with the owner (full statement below).

Click PLAY below to hear the full story

Local federal member Susan Templeman has made representations on behalf of the other residents, and noted the responses from authorities only arrived amid media scrutiny.

“What we really need to see is not just words, and not just promises, these people need to see action.

“There are rat droppings clinging to the air conditioner.”

Another nearby business owner, Sam, told Jim in addition to the rodents and odour, the pet food business’ smokestacks are dousing nearby vehicles in a “considerable” amount of material.

Click PLAY below to hear the full interview

*name changed due to privacy concerns

Full statement from the Environment Protection Authority (Click for full size)

Over the last two years The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has been proactive and undertaken six odour surveys and seven inspections at the premises of an agricultural processing facility in Mulgrave. The most recent was on 9 November 2020. Another was scheduled during the week commencing 21 December 2020, however, this was deferred due to the COVID matters impacting Greater Sydney at the time and will now take place in the next week or two. The EPA has investigated the odour complaints at the facility Off-site odour impacts are heavily dependent upon wind conditions, and to date the EPA has not been able to link off-site odour impacts with specific activities being undertaken at the agricultural processing facility. The EPA’s focus has therefore been on identifying potential odour sources at the premises and reducing the risk of odour emissions and vermin activity through improved housekeeping and equipment maintenance. What the EPA has done The (EPA) has targeted the company with several regulatory actions directing them reduce potential odours from their facility and improve their environmental performance in order to reduce any effects on their neighbours, including: issuing a Prevention Notice and an official caution in relation to odour emissions from the premises · issuing two formal warnings and one official caution for failing to maintain and operate equipment in a competent manner requiring remediation of an area of the premises impacted by hydrocarbon contamination, which can cause odours requiring upgrading of inadequate stormwater management that had been identified as a possible source of offensive odours. Outcomes to date As a result of these actions, the EPA has observed a notable improvement in the quality of housekeeping and plant and equipment maintenance at the premises since mid-2020, which has had an overall effect of reducing odours. In addition, the EPA required the facility to undertake a range of independent assessments of odour and stormwater management and is now using the recommendations from this report to develop new site-specific licence conditions which will further reduce the risk of odour. Future activity EPA will work with Hawkesbury City Council to investigate concerns about rodents In addition, the company has recently implemented improvements to its pesticide management system, including daily cleaning of process areas, weekly pest baiting by staff and fortnightly inspections by an external pesticide contractor. The EPA will now work with Hawkesbury City Council to identify actions to reduce rodent activity.

Full statement from Hawkesbury City Council’s Director of City Planning

“Council is supportive of local businesses in the Hawkesbury including Mulgrave.

“It is understood that the premises in question is currently licenced with the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and as such will work with NSW EPA to resolve this matter.

“The EPA is the appropriate Regulatory Authority for monitoring air quality, with any breaches dealt with under an EPA licence.

“Council is responsible for working with the owner of the storage premises to manage vermin and review their pest management plan.

“A site inspection is being finalised and will be arranged with the owner of the premises to investigate the issue.”


Image: Getty