Mullaghglass Landfill Site

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:15 pm on 3rd November 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Gerry Carroll Gerry Carroll People Before Profit Alliance 2:15 pm, 3rd November 2020

7. Mr Carroll asked the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs for his assessment of the action taken to address the odours emanating from the Mullaghglass landfill site. (AQO 999/17-22)

Photo of Órlaithí Flynn Órlaithí Flynn Sinn Féin

10. Ms Flynn asked the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs whether his Department is responsible for regulating Mullaghglass landfill site under a waste management licence. (AQO 1002/17-22)

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

With your permission, Mr Speaker, I will take questions 7 and 10 together.

I have been advised by officials from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) that 13 additional gas extraction wells have been installed in the active area of the landfill. The work was completed on 16 October 2020. The additional wells have now been connected to the gas extraction system. The site gas engineer is currently working on-site to optimise gas extraction from the new wells. It may take a few weeks to fully optimise the gas extraction system, as it is important to prevent the ingress of oxygen to the landfill gas management system. NIEA inspectors will continue to check the site and to monitor for odours in the Colin area regularly to assess the effectiveness of the additional gas extraction.

Photo of Gerry Carroll Gerry Carroll People Before Profit Alliance

I thank the Minister for his answer. I am happy to be corrected, but my understanding is that the NIEA has not been on-site to investigate concerns. I am happy for him to elaborate on that. Given that 104 concerns about the Mullaghglass site have been raised by residents this year already, which is a fivefold increase from 2018, and given the health concerns raised repeatedly by residents in Lagmore, Mount Eagles and west Belfast more generally, what assurances can the Minister give them that their health is not at risk from potential pollution or noxious gases coming from the site?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

The Mullaghglass landfill site is currently assessed as being non-compliant with the pollution prevention and control permit. The NIEA has directed the operator to take action and to implement new measures to address the odour nuisance. The planned installation of the additional gas extraction wells in the active area of the site was brought forward from November to September. Site works to install the new gas wells were completed on 16 October, and, as I said, it may take a few weeks for that to be optimised. On completion of the current site works, NIEA will require the landfill operator to review its odour management plan and to plan the installation of future gas wells to minimise the risk of further odour nuisance in the Colin area. Since August 2020, NIEA has conducted 14 site inspections and odour checks in the Colin area in response to the complaints from local residents.

Photo of Órlaithí Flynn Órlaithí Flynn Sinn Féin

We have held meetings with the NIEA on the issue over the past number of months, so I am aware that it has been doing work with the Mullaghglass site. I know that the site is not expected to close until December 2021. Apart from the gas wells and the work that is being done around those, are there any long-term plans in place to deal with the odours? I speak not just as the MLA for the area but as a resident of the Colin. The odours are extremely unpleasant to live with. I know that work is being done, and we are due to meet the NIEA again in December. However, aside from the gas wells, are there any plans that you can put in place?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

NIEA has been looking at a number of odour sources and reports of different types of smells across the Colin area, and the inspectors for the regulated sites in the area have initiated joint inspections to further establish what odours are affecting different parts of the Colin area. They have also been sharing information closely with the relevant environmental health officers in Belfast City Council and Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council. I know that they met you and Councillor Magennis earlier, and they will continue to cooperate with you and with all other public representatives who have concerns about the issue.

Photo of Pat Catney Pat Catney Social Democratic and Labour Party

My question is to do with the Mullaghglass site, Minister. Do you have any plans to prosecute those who are responsible? There may well be historic sites there, but there must also be some dumping going on that is creating those odours.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Unfortunately, fly-tipping takes place in the Belfast hills, and that is hugely unfortunate because it is a beautiful part of the world. We need to ensure that councils offer services, and it is important that council sites are open to take the materials. Ensuring that councils can collect heavy goods, such as settees and so forth, from people's houses is important, because people sometimes pay somebody else to do it, and those individuals then unscrupulously dump the materials. Some companies are not engaging correctly, and we need to ensure that we pursue those people. We will need to ensure that companies work with us to eliminate the problems, and that work is being done.