WITHIN days of it going online, 2,250 people responded to a petition started by Bradley Robinson calling upon East Riding of Yorkshire Council to serve an abatement notice on Yorkshire Water for its “horrendous odours” escaping from the Waste Water Treatment Works at Saltend. That petition was handed into County Hall, Beverley yesterday and the message from the organisers was a determination “not to give up” on their resident-led action until the problem is sorted.
Cynicism of Yorkshire Water is rife amongst residents; its ‘apologies’ and ‘press releases’ stating that it will sort the problem out are just not believed. When the Waste Water Treatment Works was granted planning permission in 1997 Yorkshire Water officials infamously declared during the consultation process that the site would not smell. The company now accepts that it was wrong to make those declarations and at all its public meetings on odour issues, apologises for those early statements and instead representatives of the company make the qualifying comments that “such is the nature of a sewage works, they will never fully eliminate odours”.
After 18 years of telling local residents that they are doing everything practicable to reduce odours, only for the problem to remain, the cynicism that existed towards Yorkshire Water has now turned to anger.
Mr Robinson at yesterday’s event to hand over the petition declared that the time had come to hold Yorkshire Water to account: “An abatement order would be the start of a process to legally bind Yorkshire Water to sorting the problem out. We’ve formalised a committee to act on behalf of the 2,000 members of our Stench at Saltend Facebook Group. We’re not giving up.” The banner held by Mr Robinson’s colleagues reads: “Fix it, move it, or close it. Yorkshire Water we’ve had enough!”
East Riding of Yorkshire Councillor Mike Bryan who represents the South West Holderness area had turned up at the event yesterday to receive the petition on behalf of the council. He had been unaware of the protest at County Hall until hearing about it on the news. The protesters had been keen to show that this was very much a resident-led action and there was a certain cynicism that the East Riding Council had failed to monitor Yorkshire Water adequately. Carol Osgerby, one of the protesters from Preston, said: “The council doesn’t appear to have acted to monitor Yorkshire Water since the odour incidents of 2011. They should have been constantly reviewing them”. Jo Clixby from Hedon added: “There’s been far too much lip-service and not enough action!”
Cllr. Bryan indicated that he supported issuing an abatement order against Yorkshire Water, but with the qualifying remark “if it’s possible.” He was referring to the defence that Yorkshire Water would probably put up to appeal against an abatement notice, notably that the company was doing ‘everything practicable’ to stop or reduce the nuisance it was causing. Yorkshire Water have announced short, medium and long-term mitigating measures to reduce odour incidents. But will this be enough to get Yorkshire Water off the hook considering the years of failed promises made by them?
Abatement Order – what next?
If East Riding Council are convinced that the odours have been a statutory nuisance, or they are likely to occur again, they must serve an abatement order. The word ‘must’ is contained in the Government’s online guidance. This would require Yorkshire Water to stop the smell. If they don’t comply they can be prosecuted and fined by the courts. They can incur further fines for each day that a smell continues.
Problems arise in taking out an abatement order against a water company. They are unique in the services they provide. They can not simply stop processing waste and move. That means ‘fixing’ the problem is the only option available to them – this gives credence to the claim that they are doing everything practicable to sort the problem out.
In 2011 the East Riding Council said in response to the petition (PDF file) submitted that year, that in future occurrences of odour incidents, they would require the full assistance of the local community to provide evidence of nuisance and the adverse impact caused to people’s enjoyment of land and property. In 2015 the council has a great ally in this task provided by the resident-led committee formed via the Stench at Saltend Facebook group. The council should immediately start proceedings to formally recognise and liaise with that group. Already individual members are recording incidents of when and where their lives have been disrupted by the stink. With council backing and encouragement more evidence can be obtained
In the 2011 summer odour incident, the anecdotal effects on health (feeling sick, sore eyes, breathing difficulties) were unproven. It would seem that in 2015 the council have a duty to fully investigate the health risk factor caused by prolonged exposure to hydrogen sulphide levels. They should announce special measures to ensure that the effects on health and cases of ill-health reported by complainants are fully investigated.
The next Environment and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Sub-Committee of East Riding Council, which will deal with the petition delivered yesterday, does not meet until Wednesday, 16th September 2015. However, the council should ensure through its special Review Panel announced by the Leader Stephen Parnaby, that evidence can be gathered and solutions explored sooner, rather than later.
East Riding of Yorkshire Council should:
- Recognise and formalise liaison with the resident-led committee
- Collaborate with the committee on collecting ‘evidence’ of odours and their adverse impacts on enjoying land and property
- Fully investigate the health impacts of the odours
Useful reading on GOV.UK: Nuisance smells: how councils deal with complaints.
Categories: Yorkshire Water Smells