I visited the Mullaghglass site on 3 August 2021, where I met the operator’s landfill team. I have highlighted to the operator the high volume of complaints that my office, in addition to the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, is continuing to receive from local residents, community groups and political representatives. That is of real concern to me. It was evident during my visit that, operationally, this is a very busy site with a lot of waste material being disposed of in the active phase. During the site tour, I was able to see at first hand the measures that have been put in place by the operator to capture the landfill gas, and it was evident on the day that further works were taking place to install the final cap in the most recently infilled area of the site. The operator reported that it envisages that 80% of the site will be covered with its permanent cap by December 2021 and that the site will be closed in 12 to 18 months' time. I have sought further assurance from the operator that it will do everything to ensure that what can be done to minimise odour impacts on the local area outside the site boundary will be done.
Minister, thanks for the response. I am glad to hear that the site visit went ahead. Can the Minister confirm, on the back of that site visit, whether he is ruling out calling for an independent investigation to see where the odour is coming from? It is still coming from the site, regardless of the measures.
There are considerable measures in place. One of the problems is that, as the landfill team prepare to seal the site completely, they bore wells, and, as they bore wells, fresh smells are introduced. In order to close a site down and to ensure that, in future years, there is not a continuing odour, it is necessary for that to happen. It is one of the problems that we have: if action is not taken now, we have problems in the future, but the action taken now causes problems in the here and now. I sympathise with the residents. They face a difficult circumstance. I am prepared to close the site early, but I have been told by my officials that doing that would not provide any benefit for the residents. That is why we have not done so.