Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Smellozanne: the Never Ending Saga

Smellozanne: the Never Ending Saga

“The Planning Committee turned down the application this Summer following appeals from property owners who feared that they would be struck by further stenches from the Bellozanne site, and called for the tanks to be covered at a cost of £4.1million.” (Bailiwick Express)

The recent questions asked in the States and the Planning Committee decision are part of a saga that goes back over ten years.

On 28 March 2006, a proposition was lodged by Deputy Ben Fox of St. Helier

to request the Minister for Transport and Technical Services (Deputy Guy de Faye) –

 (a) to undertake an assessment of the Bellozanne Sewage Treatment Works by the end of 2006 to identify the sources of the unpleasant smells that are causing a nuisance to those living and
working in the vicinity of the Works; and

 (b) to prepare a full engineering appraisal, following the assessment, showing how the smells could be minimized and setting out the total capital cost of the required buildings, enclosures, odour control equipment and all associated engineering works, and to request the Minister to then make the necessary submission based on the appraisal, as part of the capital prioritization process, so that funds can be sought to enable the remedial work to be undertaken.

An Extract from 25th May 2006 Council of Ministers’ Minutes – Part A says:

“The Council of Ministers, having noted and approved the foregoing, supported a proposal from the Minister for Transport and Technical Services that £3 million (£1.5 million in 2009 and £1.5 million in 2010) should be allocated for the construction of a structure (together with associated engineering works) to enclose the Bellozanne Sewage Treatment Works, for the purpose of minimising the odour produced from the site. The Council noted that the necessary funds would be found from within the Transport and Technical Services existing budgets.

And yet this never happened. In 2009, the same issues were still being raised by Ben Fox.

Hansard records a comment  on Ben Fox’s new proposition that:

“The Minister for Transport and Technical Services (Connétable M.K. Jackson) fully supports the intent of this  amendment from Deputy Fox to resolve the odour control issues at Bellozanne. To date the Minister for Transport and Technical Services has allocated £500,000 on odour control facilities for the most odorous areas within the Bellozanne Sewage Treatment Works.”

But he goes on to say that money is short after the crash of 2008, and funding will have to take its turn!

In the Amendment, Ben Fox gives many extracts from Parishioners in the area. Here is one:

“We have to endure and suffer these revolting smells late afternoon/evenings/ throughout the night and we are unable to leave our windows or doors open, even during nice warm weather at these times. They are especially distasteful when awoken at night and have caused physical sickness. We were promised the problems would be resolved and accepted this might take some time, but over 3 years have now passed since our Petition was upheld 50–1 in favour.”

Terry Le Sueur’s Council of Ministers took the same line as TTS Minister Mike Jackson:

“The Council of Ministers opposes this amendment on the grounds that the Deputy Fox proposes an increase to the capital expenditure allocation in 2010 without identifying equivalent savings, offsetting reductions in expenditure or additional funding and therefore increases the deficit position in 2010”.
Ben Fox hit back that funding had previously been approved and then snatched away::

“ The Council of Ministers in their comments refer to that they oppose my amendment because it proposes an increase to the capital expenditure in 2010 without identifying equivalent savings. Well I am sorry, Council of Ministers, you left me with no other choice. I represent the people in No. 3 and 4 Districts, along with 3 other Deputies, in the Bellozanne and First Tower areas. We had done and gone through all the processes to improve the quality of life to such a large group of people and, as far as I am concerned, I did not propose increases. I am proposing that you reinstate that which you took away without any consultation, without any reference to the Deputies or anybody else residing or working in the area.”

Deputy Andrew Green of St. Helier said, caustically:

“Oh, that does not matter because it is only the people of First Tower, it is only the people of Pomme d’Or Farm, only the people of Clos St. André and the few people that live in the village and the workers that work there.” This is unacceptable. A promise was made by this Assembly to do something about this. The smell is so obnoxious, as other Members have said, that for days on end people cannot open their windows. Not just for one day, but for days on end, sometimes the whole summer. Some of you need to go down there and smell it. You do not have to go up Bellozanne Valley”

The Connétable of St. Lawrence commented that: “When I visited India and smelt open sewers outside slums, they smelt no worse than Bellozanne’s sewerage treatment works. No worse; raw sewerage. The sickening stench of sewerage in this Island is scandalous. “

And Senator Jim Perchard said, looking back at the previous debate in 2006, commented:

“In that debate Deputy Lewis of St. Saviour said, and I quote: “To have a large valley with a large sewerage plant in it that vents into a residential area is very bad planning indeed.” But this was not so much planned for as it evolved and, as has been said in this House many times, we are where we are. It is time we did the right thing by the residents of Bellozanne and the longer we leave it the more expensive it will become. I will be supporting this proposition. “

Senator Paul Routier said:

This piece of work should have been done years ago. The States have already agreed that the work should be done. I do go down Bellozanne Valley on a regular basis and the smell is awful. I have to say I felt for some technical reason something had not been done, but it was just a lack of the funding that is required to get this done. I think we should be voting this money for it to happen. It may be that this is going against what the Council of Ministers have decided, but I think it is something that we should be doing and I will be supporting the proposition.

The votes were: POUR: 31, CONTRE: 9

Those against were Chief Minister Senator T.A. Le Sueur, and Assistant Minister Deputy Eddie Noel. Mike Jackson rather honourably abstained.

The new plant was proposed in the Waste Water Strategy, 2014. This said that:

“significant efforts have been made to try and reduce odours produced by the plant. This includes covering preliminary treatment processes where possible and installing odour-control units on some processes. However, complaints regarding odour are regularly received from adjacent neighbours, and certain climatic conditions can result in odours permeating down the valley to the south of the plant.”

“A further environmental impact from the current works is the odour which can, on occasions, extend over a large residential area to the south.
“Bellozanne STW attracts regular odour complaints from a neighbour to the northwest and occasional complaints from the residential area to the south.”

“To improve matters at Bellozanne STW, those process units which generate most odours, namely the digested sludge storage tanks, SAS and digester feed holding tank and the inlet works, have been enclosed and the air treated by way of odour control units. These works were implemented in 2008 but with limited success to date”

For the new units it says that: “Odour control will be provided to the treatment units that generate significant odour such as inlet works, sludge tanks and other units that are at risk of causing statutory nuisance.”

Fast forward to 2017, and it seems the same problems are still on the horizon:

The Connétable of St. Helier, Simon Crowcroft: “Why did the Minister tell residents, whom he met recently, concerned about the impact on their homes and businesses ... and I stress that they are not opposed to the provision of new sewage treatment works, they are opposed to odour nuisance. Why did he tell them there would be no cover and treat techniques used in the construction of the new works?

Deputy Eddie Noel: “What was said to those residents is that we have not got it in our initial plans, but if it is required - and the engineers tell me that it will not be required - we will build that in.”

Deputy JackieHilton of St. Helier: “The Minister has given States Members a lot of information in the past few minutes. Can he just confirm, did I hear correctly that he said that if there was a problem in the future that the money, the resources, would be made available to cover all the tanks involved to mitigate the odour problem for those residents of West Hill?”

Deputy E.J. Noel: “Ministers act on advice and the advice I had is that the covering of the primary settlement tanks should not be required, but if they are, we are ensuring at the facility that we do build that those covers could be retrofitted. We are doing some additional work, as I indicated in my previous answer to Deputy Lewis at the beginning of this session.”

“We do not want to spend some £40 million on a denitrification plant if it is not necessary. Similarly, I do not want to spend some £4 million on covering the primary settlement tanks if  it is not going to be necessary. If it is deemed necessary then we will cover them, but I am not going to sanction spending taxpayers’ money when it may not be required.”

It seems a case of déjà vue. Money is the factor stalling any commitment unless it is deemed necessary. Obviously, until the new plant is operational, we will not know how much odour may be generated from it, drifting into people’s houses, but it seems very unlikely that there will be no smells.

I think most taxpayers would agree that having endured decades of foul smells – and remember that a smell is carried by micro-particulate matter with the potential to cause or impact on respiratory problems – it is time that the residents of the area had some fresh air. The island owes them that much.

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