Somerset

Cannington waste plant prompts smell concerns from residents

Cannington Bio Energy
Image caption Anaerobic digestion is the process of turning organic materials into a renewable energy source

Residents in a Somerset village have said more needs to be done to tackle a "sewage-like smell" coming from a waste plant.

Cannington Bio Energy's anaerobic digestion plant was built to process farm waste but, since 2011, has dealt with food from outside the county.

Locals said the change in use had caused an odour described as a mixture of "dog's muck and burnt plastic".

New measures to tackle the problem have been approved by the county council.

'Constant' traffic

Rene Taylor, who runs Currypool Mill campsite near the plant, said an increase in traffic from the plant had also made life very difficult for her guests.

"They are huge tractors with tankers on the back, and the lane is tiny," she added.

"When they are moving the digestate into this area, then every few minutes they are up and down, all day long, from early morning to late at night - just constant.

"And the odours can be very, very bad, especially if the wind's in this direction. Even inside the house, you get this sickly odour which is almost like a combination of dog's muck and burnt plastic."

The proposed changes includes the provision of a supplementary plant and facilities, which includes eight new tanks, and changing the use of the existing storage tank to a primary digester.

Phil Higginbottom from the county council said anaerobic digestion was an important technology, but he had a "great deal of sympathy" with the local community.

"We want to try and improve the digestion process on the back of the new development that was approved at Regulation Committee," he added.

'Improve the situation'

"First of all the new technology will basically keep the digestate under controlled conditions for a much longer period - it's doubling the period of time within which that digestion process is happening.

"That really was the cause of the problem before. It was being released into the wider environment before that process had been completed."

The plant currently processes a maximum of 72,000 tonnes of waste a year.

Tim Roe, managing director of Cannington Bio Energy, the firm behind the plant, apologised to local people and said a number of measures had been put in place over the past 12 months to improve the situation.

"We have already spent £500,000 on improving it, and, following on from the approval of our latest scheme, we've got another £1m to invest which will cure the problem for good," he added.

In addition to the new measures, Mr Higginbottom said the county council had imposed conditions on the plant regarding odour control.

Mr Higginbottom said the Environment Agency had recently issued an amended environmental permit, setting odour limits and control measures.

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