• Tony Bosworth

Something smells at Mulgrave…

An ongoing pong which has hung around Mulgrave business zone for years – and which local businesses claim comes from an agricultural food processing operation – is eventually seeing some action after the intervention of a radio station and MP Susan Templeman, following her appearance on 2GB yesterday.

Owners of neighbouring businesses called into the station yesterday and spoke to presenter Jim Wilson with claims authorities – they mean Hawkesbury Council and the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) - were buck-passing their concerns.

A man called Chris [not his real name] who owns a neighbouring business, told Mr Wilson the odour can be so powerful he’s been forced to send staff home for the sake of their health, and pests – mainly rats but also snakes - are also making a regular appearance too.

“It’s that bad it smells worse than [a] burnt meat, rotten fish smell.

“You can’t breathe. It’s like you’re being gassed,” said Chris on air.

Chris said he had complained on multiple occasions to Hawkesbury Council and the Environment Protection Authority (EPA), who have not been able to detect an ‘off-site’ odour in their last six surveys of the area.

"I've been suffering this for decades, "Chris told the Post this morning. "And so's everyone else round here. It's making me ill. But you can't get anything done. We all pay our rates and you expect action. If I didn't pay my rates I'll bet they'd come and take action against me. This is the same thing - something needs to happen."

The EPA does say the company has been issued several warnings and cautions over problems identified at the site.

Ms Templeman went on the radio show yesterday and in answer to host Wilson’s questions said she had been out to the site on Friday where she described the smell as: “putrid is the most commonly used word, rancid, vile, enough to make you want to vomit. It is really a horrible smell and I headed out there just last Friday when I got a phone call to say the smell’s here, can you come and see what it’s like”.

“You know, it’s not something that you can just switch off from, it permeates everything and people have told me it sticks to your clothes. So I think the challenge for these poor businesses is they’ve put up with it for years and years, they’ve tried to go through the appropriate channels to get action, and they are really desperate, and I have to say it looks like there might have been a bit of a flurry of activity today from the responsible agencies.”

Ms Templeman said she had eventually received a response from the NSW Government about her representations to them.

“Now the thing is, that doesn’t mean there’s going to be action,” the MP said.

“What we really need to see is not just words and not just promises, these people need to see action.

“One business has a rat problem and the only thing they can think of is that it’s because of the processes that are being done by this animal food company, and they have holes in the ceiling of their business and the rats stick their noses through those holes.

Rodents are also a big problem at Mulgrave...

“They repair it, they clean it up but there are rat droppings clinging to the air conditioner. Now these are not things that the EPA or the local council can just sit back and, you know, push papers around,” said the MP.

Hawkesbury Council handed a statement to 2GB yesterday quoting the council’s Director of City Planning, which said: “Council is supportive of local businesses in the Hawkesbury including Mulgrave.

“It is understood that the premises in question is currently licensed with the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and as such will work with NSW EPA to resolve this matter.

“The EPA is the appropriate Regulatory Authority for monitoring air quality, with any breaches dealt with under an EPA licence.

“Council is responsible for working with the owner of the storage premises to manage vermin and review their pest management plan.

“A site inspection is being finalised and will be arranged with the owner of the premises to investigate the issue.”

The EPA said yesterday they would be working with Hawkesbury Council to “identify actions to reduce rodent activity”.

EPA inspectors last visited the agricultural food processing plant in November 2020, with another visit due in a week or two.

EPA has previously issued the premises with an official caution and two formal warnings, and they say since mid-2020 there had been a reduction in odours.

The EPA said the company had improved its pesticide prevention systems, and carried out daily cleaning of processing areas, coupled with weekly pest baiting and fortnightly inspections by a specialist pesticide contractor.

Main pic: Slphotogaphy /iStock

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