Managing odours in Mulgrave and South Windsor

In 2013, the EPA has received numerous complaints about odour in the Mulgrave and South Windsor areas. The descriptions of the odours vary from compost, organic, rotten egg, chemical, manure and sewage, indicating a wide range of potential odour sources.

Complaints from the public about odour can greatly assist the EPA to target its investigations; however, the EPA does not take regulatory action based on community complaints alone. 

In April 2013 the EPA engaged independent odour expert The Odour Unit Pty Ltd (TOU) to conduct odour surveys around the Mulgrave and Windsor areas, to assist the EPA to target its regulatory efforts and to give the community assurance that the issue is being treated seriously. Elf Farm contributed to the cost of the surveys. TOU conducted the surveys during late May and early June 2013, and undertook several odour surveys to identify the types, strength and possible sources of the odours.

TOU have now provided a final report entitled McGraths Hill, Mulgrave, Windsor Field Ambient Odour Assessment Study (OdourWindsor.pdf, 1.7MB).

Environment Protection Licence 6229 sets out the Pollution Reduction Program and additional operating conditions for Elf Farm Pty Ltd.

Why did the EPA commission the report?
The EPA identified an increase in the number of odour complaints from residents around Mulgrave and South Windsor between March and May 2013. Since 1 January 2013 the EPA has undertaken 28 surveys in the South Windsor / Mulgrave areas; however, there is a range of potential odour sources including a number of licensed and non-licensed premises including compost, pet food factory, sewage treatment plants and market gardens. The descriptions of the odours also vary from compost, organic, rotten egg, chemical, manure and sewage, indicating a wide range of potential odour sources.

The EPA commissioned The Odour Unit Pty Ltd to undertake an assessment of the area to try to pinpoint the potential sources of odour and to help target regulatory efforts.

What is The Odour Unit Pty Ltd?
The Odour Unit is an independent odour consultant company engaged by the EPA to undertake odour assessments around the Mulgrave and Windsor area.

The Odour Unit recently assisted the EPA to pinpoint sources of odour in Western Sydney, providing a report which has guided the EPA’s actions to require certain facilities to mitigate their potentially odour-producing activities.

What does the report say?
The report details the findings from seven field odour surveys, conducted by The Odour Unit during the months of May and June 2013. The surveys were conducted in a range of weather conditions and locations and at different times of the day.

The report found that the Elf Farm Pty Ltd facility emits a range of odours. Odour from the facility was detected at various levels in all seven field odour surveys. Other odours were also identified during the surveys not of a compost nature. The report identifies Elf Farm is the most likely facility causing odour during the surveys. Some sources of odour other than Elf Farm were also detected, such as the Pet Food factory.

The report makes recommendations on mitigating the potentially odour-producing activities at Elf Farm. These include recommendation to undertake works in areas of the facility such as the bale-wetting area and the pre-wet building.

What is the EPA doing in response?
Elf Farm holds an environment protection licence issued by the EPA, which sets out requirements for environmental management and performance at the premises. The EPA has placed a pollution reduction program (PRP) on the operating licence of Elf Farm that requires immediate changes to operational procedures at the facility, as well as some longer-term works to measure and analyse odour.

Elf Farm has already undertaken process changes to mitigate the risk of odour emissions from its activities, and other changes will start to take place through August and September 2013.

The changes to the licence are legally binding and any breaches could result in regulatory action. The EPA is committed to ensuring that the PRP is complied with.

The EPA will also continue its broader regulatory work to tackle odours in the area, including random odour surveys, inspections and responding to complaints from residents.

What about the other facilities named as odour sources?
A stock feed facility in Curtis St McGraths Hill was identified as a potential source of odour. This facility is licensed by the EPA. Search for Licence no. 2619. In 2010, an extraction system was installed at the facility to assist with odour management. The EPA will continue to monitor activities at the facility to minimise the risk of odour impacts.

A broiler farm on Fairey Rd was also identified as a potential source of odour. This facility is regulated by Council and has been referred to Council for investigation.

Did Elf Farm Pty Ltd contribute to the assessment and, if so, how we can be sure that the report is independent?
Elf Farm voluntarily contributed 30 per cent of the total payment for the report (as mentioned in the EPA’s media release on 7 May 2013); however, this did not allow them any influence over The Odour Unit’s testing or results. The EPA commissioned and briefed The Odour Unit, but The Odour Unit independently designed its field odour survey regime and did not given any advanced notification to either the EPA or Elf Farm about the time or dates of the scheduled odour surveys.

Why has the report taken so long to be made public?
The EPA engaged The Odour Unit to undertake the survey in May 2013. It was important to ensure that the surveys were undertaken in a range of weather conditions and at different times of the day, to build accurate and robust evidence. The Odour Unit also undertook a review of the management practices at Elf Farm and made recommendations about minimising the risk of odour emissions from certain activities.

How do I report odour?
The EPA appreciates the information members of the public have provided to date about odours in the area. Detailed information, including the nature, type, time and wind direction greatly assists the EPA to identify and address odour.

This information can be lodged with the EPA’s 24-hour Environment Line on 131 555.

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