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Fears over rotting foul waste smell from revived Farington site

Posted on - 29th January, 2024 - 8:00am | Author - | Posted in - Leyland, Preston News, South Ribble Locations, South Ribble News
Farington waste recovery centre
Farington waste recovery centre

A South Ribble borough councillor has called for protection for residents living close to a site that is set to specially process all of Lancashire’s food waste – after “foul smells” were generated the last time it was used for a similar purpose.

As the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) revealed last week, mothballed facilities at the Farington waste recovery centre are to be brought back into use as part of plans to start weekly leftover food collections across Lancashire within the next two years.

Farington West ward councillor Paul Wharton-Hardman says he was horrified to learn that the anaerobic digestion kit at the plant was going to be upgraded and restarted, with the prospect stirring up malodorous memories from more than a decade ago.

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However, Lancashire County Council, which operates the waste site – on Sustainability Way – has moved to reassure residents that key differences in the process this time round will actually reduce the risk of a stench hanging over the surrounding area.  The authority also stressed that food waste is already taken to the Farington site, but is just not anaerobically digested at the moment.

Cllr Wharton-Hardman told the LDRS that there had been no consultation whatsoever with locals – and said he was unconvinced by the soothing noises emanating from County Hall about the potential for pongs.

“They’re telling me that it’s going to be [done] in sealed containers and is not going to cause a smell, but where are they going to store 40,000 tonnes of rotting food waste in the summer months? It’s not going to go straight from wagon to tank, is it?

“I completely agree that we need to look at economical and environmentally-friendly ways to get rid of waste, but these sites should not be anywhere near residential areas – and there’s a load of new residential development in that area, plus the new cricket ground and the Cuerden [industrial] development. So it’s just not in the right place.

“But if they are going to push ahead with it, I’d like to see proper consultation with residents. They need to tell us what safeguards are in place to stop the horrendous smells across the whole area…[which] went on for miles.  I think there was even an instance when the county council offered to give residents air fresheners last time,” Cllr Wharton-Hardman said.

The LDRS understands that when the anaerobic digestion equipment was last in operation at Farington, up until 2014, the food waste that was fed into it first had to be removed from the general grey bin rubbish with which it arrived, mixed in.

Under the new arrangement, the food waste will arrive having already been separated by householders before collection.  Apart from passing through a new machine to remove any packaging caught up with the food, it will be ready for anaerobic digestion without any further filtering – which it is believed will lessen the potential for odours to build up.

Responding to Cllr Wharton-Hardman’s concerns, Lancashire County Council’s cabinet member for health and wellbeing, Michael Green – who represents the Moss Side and Farington division at County Hall – said: “Food waste is already in the residual waste collected from residents’ homes and taken to the facility.  The only difference in the future is it will be collected separately and the plant will be able to put it through a process that creates energy.

“Anaerobic digestion is an extremely commonly used process and for the borough councillor to suggest that it could be dangerous is incorrect, misleading and simply designed to scare residents. We already treat residual waste at the plant and turn it into refuse-derived fuel.

“Unlike the borough councillor, I opposed the original construction of the waste plant, as I was concerned about the system being proposed at that time.  Odours from the plant occurred soon after it opened and were entirely as a result of the air management system at the facility not being operated correctly.

“At the time, the facility was operated by a private company.  We worked hard at the county council to resolve the issues and we terminated our contract with the company in 2014, rectified the air management system and have since operated the facility ourselves without issue.

“We have in effect been treating food waste at the Farington facility, and its sister site in Thornton, for the last 10 years.  Processing it using anaerobic digestion, once it is collected separately, is a hugely positive step as it will create energy and reduce costs for the taxpayer.  It is a much better environmental solution than the current process.

“As the county councillor representing the residents of Farington since 2017, I will continue to ensure that their health, wellbeing and amenity is protected,” County Cllr Green added.

Anaerobic digestion was abandoned at the Farington plant a decade ago because the gas it produced – to be turned into electricity – was not being created in sufficient quantities.

It is estimated the new set-up will save £6.34m a year via a combination of electricity generation and reduced costs compared to the current way in which food waste is dealt with.

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