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Fifers’ lives blighted by landfill stench after site operators failed to keep up with ‘routine’ work

Terry O'Connor lives near the Lochhead site.
Terry O'Connor lives near the Lochhead site.

An environmental regulator told Fife landfill site operators to clean up their act after they lagged behind with “routine” work to contain odours.

The foul smell from Lochhead Landfill Site, north of Dunfermline, has affected communities six miles away.

One local resident said she had to close off the vents in her home to stop the stink from getting in.

It has now been revealed Fife Council’s arms-length landfill operators Cireco only completed 9% of capping work required to contain the stench.

Council bosses are now investing £26 million across Lochhead and the landfill at Lower Melville Wood, which has also been at the centre of complaints over smell.

Spending increased from £12.5m.

This was a result of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) telling them to get a move on with the work or face an enforcement notice.

Council failed to carry out ‘routine industry practice’

Sepa said when it issued the Lochhead site’s permit in 2006 it clearly set out requirements for preventing environmental pollution.

A spokesperson said: “All landfill cells should be built, filled and capped in a progressive manner – meaning once a cell is filled it is capped in a timely manner.”

This is “routine industry practice” to control gas and therefore also odour emissions.

Lochhead Landfill Site.
Lochhead Landfill Site.

“Sepa has identified that progressive capping of this site has not occurred.

“Despite proactive attempts to encourage the operator to make significant progress through summer 2020, only around 9% of the required area has been capped.

“We have identified that this lack of capping is a contributing factor to odour complaints received by Sepa which have affected the local community.

“We have expressed clearly the urgency in this matter being progressed to avoid the need for Sepa to implement enforcement measures.”

Resident blocked off air vents

There have been complaints about the smell from as far away as Cowdenbeath — six miles from the Lochhead site.

Meanwhile, in the nearest village, Townhill, residents said the prevailing wind generally kept the smell away.

But when the wind blows the smell across the village, it can be pungent.

One resident, who asked to remain anonymous, said she had blocked off the vents in her house in recent days to keep the smell out.

“It comes through the vent and there’s a smell in the living room, so I blocked the vent off.”

She switched her gas off as a precaution while the vents were blocked off.

Terry O’Connor.

Resident and retired firefighter Terry O’Connor, 75, said: “The prevailing wind saves us really.”

But he worries about the traffic going through the village.

“The smell isn’t so much a problem to me.

“My concern is the trucks that go through here from the tip. It’s a small road for the traffic it has to take.”

Communities across Fife blighted by landfill

Lochhead is not the only Fife landfill at the centre of controversy.

In north east Fife, the Lower Melville Wood site has been blighting the lives of residents for years.

Workers capped a noxious smelling landfill cell at Lower Melville which had been causing misery for local communities.

Since then, the situation seems to have improved.

But plans for an incinerator have created fresh controversy at Lower Melville.

Lib Dem MSP for North East Fife Willie Rennie has campaigned for an end to the Melville pong and lodged a formal objection to the incinerator plans.

He said: “It’s only right that Cireco and the council fund the required improvements to stop the stink at Melville and Lochhead.”

“Residents have had to put up with a lot for far too long.

“For the sake of taxpayers I want to keep the costs under control, which is why I have questioned the suitability of Melville as a landfill site if such costs need to be incurred.”

Robin Baird is Cireco’s chief executive officer.

He said the £26m contract is for all works on both sites – Lochhead and Lower Melville Wood.

This includes recycling, landfill operations, anaerobic digestion and waste transfer.

“The work on both sites was always expected and programmed for future years.

“We have had to bring some works forward in order to ensure continual compliance with our Sepa license and this spend is reflective of that.”

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