'Foul' smelling sludge in Northamptonshire village causes 'health issues' and 'headaches' for residents

Anglian Water have been undertaking maintenance at the Great Billing Water Recycling Centre so have been transporting additional sludge to a Whilton plant

Wednesday, 15th September 2021, 5:29 pm
The sludge alleged to be emitting a 'foul' odour in Whilton. Photo: Paul Rigby

A resident in Long Bucky Wharf made a fetid discovery after he set out to locate the source of 'foul' smells that have been giving him headaches.

The resident, who reached out to this newspaper, claims that he and other residents in the area have been suffering as a result of 'sewage type odours' for around four months. He works outdoors so the unpleasant smells have been having a significant impact on his day-to-day life.

A neighbour suggested to him that the Whilton Water Recycling Centre could be responsible for the unpleasant smells so he took it upon himself to drive to the site to investigate.

Additional waste is currently being processed in Whilton as a result of maintenance being carried out at the Great Billing Water Recycling Centre. Photo: Paul Rigby

Describing the scene, he said: "It was pretty deserted but in a corner of the site sits what looks like a derelict building and this is processing raw waste into ‘cake’. The cake is waste mixed with soil which is then allowed to dry in the open air in a giant bunded hardstanding.

"The smell is foul as you can imagine and this is what is being blown into the surrounding villages."

Disbelieved at what he saw, the resident got in touch with water company, Anglian Water, to complain about the sludge and ask for the process to be halted as it was causing health issues for him and diminishing residents' enjoyment of their outside space.

He added: "I will accept nothing less than the process being stopped.

The sludge in Wilton is causing offence to nearby residents. Photo: Paul Rigby

"It is pretty grim up there at the plant. God only knows what happens when it rains heavily and the water from the drying cake washes into the drains."

This newspaper approached Anglian Water to make the company aware of the impact the smell of the sludge is having on nearby residents and to ask what why the waste is being processed in that location and how long the treatment will go on for.

A spokesperson for Anglian Water has since issued an apology and announced that no further waste will be transported to Whilton.

The spokesperson said: "Our Water Recycling Centres (WRC) treat thousands of litres of water every day, allowing us to return healthy water to the environment, and at the same time performing a vital role serving local communities.

“Over the last few months, we have been undertaking essential maintenance at our Great Billing Water Recycling Centre and has meant we have needed to transport sludge to other centres, including Whilton WRC.

"Although we’ve installed additional equipment at the site to reduce any smells, at times, this work has led to a localised increase in odour. From today, we will not be transporting any additional sludge to the Whilton site.

“We would like to apologise to local residents, who have been affected while the work was carried out, and would like to reassure them that things will now return to normal.”

Anglian Water has been asked what will become of the waste already at the site and they have yet to respond.

A similar issue was raised in Nether Heyford last week when residents complained to West Northamptonshire Council about the pungent odours caused by the agricultural practice of 'muck spreading' on a nearby farm.

An officer from the council's Environmental Protection Team visited the area and was satisfied that the farmer was complying with DEFRA regulations and, as a result, took no further action. A council spokesperson also said that the Environmental protection team can take no action unless bad odours persist for a significant period of time or users are seen to be disregarding guidance in the Codes of Practice issued by DEFRA.

According to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, producers and users of sludge must take steps to protect the environment and avoid public nuisance. Treatment processes can be used to reduce odours but some treated sludges can still be offensive.

Producers of sludge, including water companies, must also consider how close sludge deposits are to populated areas as well as wind direction and strength

West Northamptonshire Council declined to comment on how long the maintenance at the Great Billing Water Recycling Centre will be taking place.