THE Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) has said that a recent inspection of Re-Gen Waste’s Warrenpoint Port facility found it to be “compliant with the condition of their authorisation relating to the monitoring and control of odour”.
This information, sent to the Mourne Observer yesterday (Tuesday), comes just days before independent Crotlieve councillor Mark Gibbons tables a notice of motion at council relating to the ‘foul smell from Warrenpoint Port’. Last month, Warrenpoint Harbour Authority (WHA) apologised for the unpleasant odour in the town, and confirmed that it was being caused by household rubbish being recycled by ReGen Waste. As the smell persists, WHA revealed in a statement on Friday that it will now “be appointing an environmental specialist to carry out an independent, robust, and scientific based investigation into this odour issue”. NIEA, which falls under the remit of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), confirmed in early September that it was investigating the smell.
DAERA was contacted for an update on this on Monday, and, the following day, a spokesperson said: “NIEA are aware of the reports of odour in the Warrenpoint Port area, suspected to be emanating from an authorised waste storage facility within Warrenpoint Harbour. “From 16 August 2023, NIEA officials have carried out weekly inspections of this facility, including assessments of odour, which were completed by sense of smell sniff testing (olfactory monitoring). “The most recent inspection by NIEA officials on 21 September 2023 noted that the facility was compliant with the condition of their authorisation relating to the monitoring and control of odour. “The NIEA will continue to monitor this authorised facility in line with their scheduled monitoring regime.” Following on from a protest at the town dock in August, a public meeting was held in a packed Skylite Room in Warrenpoint last week.
The ‘Rotten to the Point’ event was attended by Cllr Gibbons, his fellow independent Crotlieve representative Jarlath Tinnelly and South Down Alliance MLA Patrick Brown, and they discussed bringing forward a notice of motion – as suggested by local businessman Jim Boylan – to October’s council meeting. The motion, being tabled on Monday, calls on the local authority to voice its concern ‘about the ongoing foul smell emanating from Warrenpoint Port, the impact this is having on residents’ quality of life, and the potential risk it poses to public health’. ‘Whilst we accept that steps are being taken to address the smell, many questions and concerns still remain about how it came about and how much longer it will last,’ it reads. ‘Council will write formally to Warrenpoint Port expressing these concerns, and seeking clarity on what will be done to ensure this issue is swiftly resolved and will not happen again. ‘We also call on council’s Environmental Health Department to work with Warrenpoint Port and other relevant stakeholders, including the NIEA, to compile a comprehensive public report – that will be brought back to council – on how this happened and how it will be resolved so it does not happen again.’ WHA’s Friday statement said that, in recent weeks, it has been “seeking a resolution for an ongoing, intermittent odour in the Warrenpoint area”, and that it is “aware of the continued concerns of both local residents and public representatives about this matter”.
It also sought to provide assurances “that we are fully engaged with the relevant statutory environmental authorities”, and that it has “spoken directly with the tenant implicated in the matter and asked them to put in place mitigation measures as a matter of urgency”. WHA voiced concerns that, “despite the tenant implementing an array of mitigations”, a complete resolution “has not yet been achieved”. “As a result, it has today confirmed that it will be appointing an environmental specialist to carry out an independent, robust, and scientific based investigation into this odour issue,” the statement added. “The purpose of the investigation will be to independently examine and review the root cause, and to recommend corrective measures, if required, to prevent a recurrence. “The investigation has been instigated by the WHA Board.” WHA chairman Dr Gerard O’Hare said that he “would like to personally apologise again, on behalf of the board”. “We are taking the concerns expressed by our nearest neighbours seriously, and we want you to know that we are taking action,” he added. “Our executives have already put in place mitigation measures, and Re-Gen, a licensed tenant of 10 years at Warrenpoint, have also put in place additional measures. “These include modified bale wrap and expediting exports. “Whilst the smell has become significantly less frequent in recent weeks, we recognise there remains periodic odour issues outside the harbour estate. “This should not be happening. “We will be engaging with the relevant local and regional environmental authorities, and with Re-Gen to secure their cooperation and participation in this independent investigation.”
Dr O’Hare stated that the port and Warrenpoint town are “integral to one another”, and that they are “very conscious of our environmental responsibilities and regulatory obligations”. He also said that “our door remains open to local residents and/or their public representatives to express concerns to us directly”, and that the outcomes of the investigation “will be made public as soon as possible”.