11 August 2023

EPA enforces stronger measures as Tumut's odorous problem prevails

| Edwina Mason
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Additional measures have been introduced by the NSW EPA to reduce the odour problem that has lingered over Tumut since June. Image: Tourism NSW.

Tumut residents are still mired in a stinky situation as a rotten egg odour overhanging the town continues to linger much longer than they expected.

The smell – which has greeted the community each day since June 2023 – led to an investigation by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (NSW EPA) which identified the source as a waste management facility on Killarney Road at nearby Gilmore.

Tumut Waste Pty Ltd hold an environment protection licence for waste disposal activities at Bellettes Landfill.

The licence permits the disposal of waste tyres and non-putrescible waste at the site to an annual limit of 40,000 tonnes per year.

Non-putrescible general solid waste includes glass, rubber, plastic, plasterboard, ceramics, bricks, concrete or metal, paper and cardboard, garden waste, building and demolition waste, virgin excavated natural material and wood waste.

The licence does not permit offensive odour to leave the premises.

Now the EPA has taken additional steps in issuing a prevention notice and is requiring Tumut Waste to restrict the volume and types of waste that can be accepted at Bellettes Landfill.

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The EPA says it has been working with the licensee since 19 July 2023 to implement immediate mitigation measures and now has strict conditions in place to reduce odours.

NSW EPA Executive Director Operations Steve Orr said measures being put in place to counter the odour included covering waste and pumping out and treating leachate.

Leachate is the liquid that flows through waste, usually found in landfills.

“By reducing the amount of waste allowed at the facility, and placing restrictions on where waste can be distributed, the odours should continue to significantly subside,” Mr Orr said.

He said management of waste-impacted water would be closely monitored, with it now directed to a purpose-built sealed leachate dam, designed to hold and treat the liquid.

“In addition to daily inspections at the site, the EPA currently has 10 gas monitors installed throughout the community,” Mr Orr said.

“The results from this gas monitoring are publicly available on the EPA’s website.”

The EPA has also varied Tumut Waste’s environment protection licence for Bellettes Landfill to require a landfill gas risk assessment which will inform the gas capture system that must be installed at the premises.

Mr Orr said the odour had been described as a hydrogen sulphide/rotten egg smell and had generated more than 90 complaints to the EPA since late June.

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People can detect hydrogen sulphide at low concentrations due to its distinct smell.

Exposure to these low concentrations of hydrogen sulphide may cause irritation to the eyes, nose or throat, and difficulties in breathing in people with asthma.

Anyone concerned about their symptoms should consult their doctor, Mr Orr advised.

“We would like to thank the community for their patience while this odour has been identified and measures planned to counter the issue,” Mr Orr said.

“We will continue to work with Snowy Valleys Council and other NSW Government agencies to ensure all required works are completed at the premises, that the new conditions are being complied with and will keep the community updated.”

The EPA will continue its investigations before considering potential regulatory action.

Monitoring results are available on the EPA website as well as additional information about hydrogen sulphide.

Original Article published by Edwina Mason on About Regional.

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