People living beside a farm turned sustainable waste disposal plant and sandstone quarry claim the smell from the huge site is so foul they can’t sell their houses.
Residents in Gelligaer in Caerphilly say sometimes they can’t open their windows and have been beset with issues for 20 years as a result of the work.The Bryn Group - owned by the Price family who have been at the site formerly known as Gelliargwellt Uchaf farm for five generations - tells of how a former family-run farm has grown into a massive 350-hectare eco-friendly waste management operation which sells renewable power.
One of its many big customers is Caerphilly County Borough Council, which also regulates the group’s operations.
While residents beside them say they don’t begrudge the Price family for diversifying their business so successfully, they are frustrated that they have to put up with what they say is a “constant stench 365 days a year”.
While they re-established a liaison group between themselves and the Bryn site earlier this year, locals maintain they “don’t get an inch” in their conversations with the company and the council, and continue to feel ignored.
Sherry Spencer, 72, who has lived in Gelligaer all her life, claims the blasts from the quarry to create sandstone have caused cracks in her home, while the smell from the plant has prevented her from selling up.
Ms Spencer, former secretary of the liaison group, said: “It isn't a typical farming smell. We’ve been surrounded by farms here for more than a century and we’ve never had smells like we have now.
"It’s like a sulphurous smell, like acid has gone up your nose. Other times it’s like there’s a public toilet in your back garden.“The smell now is as bad as ever. Last week was awful. You can phone and phone but nothing ever gets done about it. They say they rarely get complaints anymore but it’s because people have got so fed up with phoning.
"People have lost hope. After 20 years of complaining we haven’t got an inch. In the end I retired as secretary of the liaison group because the group wasn’t making a difference.“I put my house up for sale because I’m diabetic and I fell down the stairs, so I needed to downsize. I had three people one day come and see the house and the village was absolutely stinking. Everyone that visited knew it wasn’t a typical farm smell. It’s absolutely disgusting.
“Every person who came here asked me about the smell. I was embarrassed but I couldn’t lie to them and sell them my house under false pretences. In the end they all turned me down, so I’m struggling on in this house and I’ve paid a fortune to try and get it modified.
"Then there is the blasting too. The whole house shakes. The dogs panic and come running in the house because they can feel the ground going. I’ve had to have the doors refitted four times because of it. There are cracks in my walls and on the front of my house."
A spokesperson for the Bryn Group said: "The cows eat a lot of silage, which we grow on our farm, and produce a large amount of slurry, which we process on-site along with food waste from across Caerphilly in our anaerobic digester.
"We have taken significant measures to manage the cattle slurry, such as improving rainwater management. This keeps the clean rainwater separate from slurry to reduce the overall volume of slurry the farm is producing.
"The recent warm spell coincided with our latest silage harvest. Part of that process is to spread digestate biofertiliser on the land, which takes about seven to ten days solid work. Just like spreading raw slurry to fertilise, which farmers have done for centuries, digestate biofertiliser gives off an odour when it is spread.
"We know that odours and activity associated with our dairy farm are often incorrectly attributed to the recycling facility and anaerobic digester we have on site.
"The food recycling operation has never been served with any kind of enforcement notice and, as a sealed system, emits no odours from the point at which food is delivered until the end-product, called digestate, is spread on local farmland and fields as biofertiliser.
"Even then, research shows that digestate biofertiliser has a lower odour profile than raw cattle slurry and the odour dissipates much more quickly."
The spokesperson added that the group blasts at the quarry 15 times a year, and said it isn't possible that the blasts would cause damage to properties.
A spokesman for Caerphilly council said: “The various operations on this site are subject to ongoing monitoring by the council, NRW and other partner agencies.
"We are aware of concerns from the surrounding community and a liaison group has been established to improve local engagement and provide a platform for community representatives to raise and discuss such issues.
"All complaints received by the council are recorded and logged so that officers from the relevant section can investigate if appropriate. We will continue to work with the operator, the community and our partner agencies to address any concerns as they arise.”
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