Complaints of failure to probe landfill site stench rejected

Proper investigations were carried out into an alleged stench from a landfill site at the centre of more than 1,000 complaints, a High Court judge ruled yesterday.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 26th May 2022, 8:29 am

Mr Justice Humphreys also identified no unlawful failure to set limits on emissions at the Mullaghglass facilities near Lisburn, Co Antrim.

Dismissing a challenge by local residents who claimed inactivity by public authorities in dealing with the foul smells they have been plagued with for years, he held that any interference with their human rights was justified.

Judicial review proceedings were brought by grandmother Noeleen McAleenon on behalf of those living close to the site operated by Alpha Resource Management.

Lagan Valley Island Centre, Lisburn.

She claimed Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council (LCCC) breached its statutory duty to properly investigate complaints about nuisance odours.

Lawyers for Ms McAleenon also alleged that the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) and Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs (Daera) had failed to set hydrogen sulphide emission limit values for the permit to operate the facilities.

She blamed “rotten egg” smells coming from the site since it opened in 2006 for her suffering headaches, a runny nose, watering eyes, nausea and deteriorating mental health.

The stench has forced her to either remain indoors or else stay elsewhere to get some respite from the smell, she stated.

The court heard that between September 2020 and November 2021 1,092 complaints were received from 423 individuals about the odour.

But in a case centred on alleged failures to take the necessary steps to prevent any pollution, Mr Justice Humphreys was told LCCC officers carried out monitoring and site visits, as well as working closely with the relevant agencies to investigate complaints.

Although the council concluded there has been no statutory nuisance, the situation remains under review.

With Alpha operating the site under a permit issued by NIEA, the agency found no risk of a serious impact on the environment or public health required to trigger any enforcement action.

In its opinion the operation of the site does not involve an imminent risk of serious pollution.

Delivering judgment, Mr Justice Humphreys said the evidence does not sustain claims that LCCC avoided responsibility for investigation.

He cited meetings held with residents, the site operator and other authorities, monitoring carried out and consideration given to independent expert evidence.

“LCCC has, in fact, carried out an investigation which led to an entirely rational conclusion,” the judge said.

He also pointed out that no landfill site in the United Kingdom operates with set hydrogen sulphide emission requirements.

Despite finding that Ms McAleenon has legal status as a victim, he rejected claims of an unlawful breach of her Article 8 rights to private and family life.

“Significant infrastructure works were required to be done, independent testing and monitoring has been carried out, evidence sought and obtained from residents in the area, the phenomenon of cold flow drainage examined, new equipment purchased,” he pointed out.

Following the verdict, Harry Robinson of Phoenix Law, a solicitor representing Ms McAleenon, indicated that further legal steps could be taken.