A sickening stench threatening to spoil the Bank Holiday weekend for thousands of people in west Fife has been blamed on activities at a former opencast mine.
Complaints have been flooding into Fife Council’s environmental health team and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) about the bad odour in the Dunfermline area, described as “horrific” and “unbearable” by locals on social media, apparently emanating from the site at Muir Dean in Crossgates.
Fife Council said the problem was caused by distillery waste being spread on the land and insisted it was not animal or human waste, as some locals had feared.
A spokesperson confirmed the authority was considering legal action against the site owners and said it was taking appropriate action to try to mitigate the impact on surrounding communities.
However, ahead of a weekend where the Kingdom is set to be bathed in sunshine, fears have been raised by many locals that the start of their summers could well be ruined by the powerfully pungent pong.
Ross Macfarlane, 29, who stays in the Duloch area, was so troubled by the nasty niff that he went straight to the source, where he was told waste was being used to fertilise the land and help the grass grow.
Now he fears the activities threaten to “wreck” the summer of thousands of affected people if action is not taken soon.
“Unless you smell it, it’s almost impossible to comprehend what it smells like – it’s 100 times worse than you would imagine,” he said.
“It started about three days ago and we just thought it was the fields like everyone else, and it wasn’t as bad the other day because the wind was blowing in a different direction.
“But when we came back on Thursday night, you couldn’t even go in the house because the smell was coming through the vents.
“It’s the Bank Holiday weekend, we’ve got a lovely house and it would be nice to get out in the garden and enjoy the summer, but it’s unbearable.
“My worry is the scale of it – I can’t even put into words the size of the area – and if people don’t do something then it could last for months.”
Former local MP Thomas Docherty also lives in the same area and added: “It’s completely unacceptable that for three days Fife Council and SEPA have failed to take this seriously.
“First they said it was just a farmer spreading manure, then they each told residents to complain to the other organisation and now they are saying there is nothing that can be done about it.
“I’ve raised it with our local MP Douglas Chapman who I hope will demand answers from Fife Council and SEPA as to why there such a breakdown in communication with residents and what steps they will take to ensure that this can’t happen again.”
Shirley-Anne Somerville, MSP for Dunfermline and West Fife, said she had been contacted by a number of constituents regarding the smell which has been lingering over Dunfermline and surrounding areas of late.
“This has been a source of significant discomfort to many local residents,” she said.
“I have been engaging with Fife Council’s environmental health team in order to ensure that appropriate action is being taken to investigate this matter.
“We need to ensure that work like this is conducted responsibly so as to not be detrimental to surrounding communities.”
Fife Council has launched an investigation and has urged people not to contact the local authority, promising to post updates on Facebook, Twitter and Fife Direct.
A spokesperson said local authority representatives have conducted a site visit and is considering taking legal action against the site owner.
“The council has been assured that there is currently no plans to spread any further material at this site,” he said.
“The source of the odour is coming from approximately 1000 tonnes of limed distillery waste which was spread by the landowner at Muirdean on Wednesday and Thursday of this week.
“This waste is a by-product of the distilling process and is not, as reported by some, animal or human waste.
“The waste is very odorous and this has been further heightened by the hot weather and the wind blowing directly towards a large area of housing.
“Generally odours of this nature dissipate over a day or two.”
A spokesperson from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) said:
“We’re receiving a high volume of calls about odours in the Dunfermline area.
“The cause of some of these complaints is the spreading of slurry which is the remit of Fife Council.
“SEPA officers and Fife Council separately today attended a site at Muir Dean and confirmed that the source of this odour has been the spreading of limed distillery waste by the landowner.
“The distillery waste is being ploughed in in order to alleviate odour and there are currently no plans to spread any further material at the site.
“Fife Council has indicated it is considering legal action.”