PEOPLE affected by smells coming from food plants off the Dublin road in Naas have been urged by a judge to make complaints.
The Arrow Group Limited, which operates the companies, was fined a total of E10,000 at Kilcock District Court on March 8 having admitted two breaches of environmental legislation by causing or allowing odours on dates in February and November 2011.
AGL was also ordered to pay costs of E22,500. Both the fines and the costs will be paid to the Environmental Protection Agency, which took the case.
Judge Des Zaidan said he was “not very comfortable” concluding the case last week; some six months after it first came before Naas District Court. He noted that while the EPA was satisfied the smells had disappeared, the residents were not.
“If there are any issues in the future make a new complaint to the EPA and new proceedings will be issued if necessary,” Judge Zaidan told a small group of residents who attended the hearing.
EPA solicitor Barry Doyle said an EPA inspector had been through the premises the day before (March 7) and she was satisfied no odours were present at the time of the inspection.
He added he understood some residents were not happy but he believed that if the plant is operated properly there “shouldn’t be more problems.”
Mr. Doyle said the work to solve the problem had been done to the satisfaction of the EPA.
The EPA, he said, could visit for four successive days and find no smell but there could be a smell on the fifth day. If the remedial works are inadequate, there will be another prosecution.
“The EPA will follow this closely, listen to complaints and follow them up,” he asserted.
When he said he could not speak for the residents, Judge Zaidan asked: “Did it cross your mind to ask the residents ?”
He judge halted the hearing for some minutes to allow for the residents to be consulted.
“The residents have to live there; it’s their lifestyle. You tell me it’s okay but they don’t seem to agree,” said Judge Zaidan.
AGL’s solicitor Deborah Spence said the company had been subjected to five unannounced EPA inspections. She added that smells on site are acceptable and it’s only when the odours go off site that here is a problem.
Ms. Spence said only one smell was detected during the recent inspections at 55 locations in the area. She described the EPA inspection as a “very full audit” because the EPA knew they would “be in court today.”
She said the company had installed machinery to deal with the problem at a cost of E1m. “What we have there addresses this and we will comply in the suture,” she said.
“Enormous steps have been taken to address the complaints and the EPA inspects frequently. This is an extremely important business and the biggest employer in the area. The company is taking steps to improve the situation. It’s impossible to stop all the smells but the EPA will act if there is a problem,” Ms. Spence said.
It may be necessary to “tweak the machinery. The company may need to spend more money and it will continue to liaise with the EPA.
Resident Tom Feighery said he could smell “very very unpleasant” cooking odours at 11.30pm the night before in both back and front gardens . He agreed the smells “not as bad as in the past but still there.”
He also said there had been improvements since the case began.
He said the plant is vast and there are a number of estates around it so some get smells and others don’t. Some smells last for an hour and some some disappear much sooner.
Judge Zaidan accepted some smells will be present in a food manufacturing facility.
But he criticised the Government and legislation pointing out that the costs of the case outweigh the maximum fines that can be imposed.