Families cooped up inside during the coronavirus lockdown have beenplagued by swarms of flies which have turned a Bristol suburbinto a 'double nightmare'.
For years the people of Avonmouth have been bombarded by clouds offlies buzzing into their village from nearby waste plants.
Triggered by the early warm weather this year the flies have arrivedagain, taking off from the 42 recycling centres in the surroundingarea.
Residents report flies flying onto their food, landing on their babieswhile they sleep and swarming around their homes.
The issue had previously been dismissed as solely being a problem inAvonmouth in the past, with briefings and suggestions from localcouncil chiefs and the Environment Agency which appeared to put theonus on residents for not disposing of their own waste properly.
But now the plague of flies has spread much further and wider than ever before.
Now, thousands of residents across Bristol and North Somerset have signed a petition calling for action to be taken by environmentalhealth bosses.
People living in Avonmouth, Shirehampton, Lawrence Weston, Sea Millsand across the River Avon in Pill have also bombarded Bristol CityCouncil, their local MP, and the Environment Agency to express theirfury.
They say the coronavirus lockdown means not only is it harder toobtain products to deal with the flies, but it means they can’t getout of their homes to escape either.
One resident, Alan Machin, shared a picture of a single sticky flystrip with dozens of flies caught on it.
I have also been using fly killer and my dog is trying to catch them every five minutes. It’s disgusting, especially as there is no escape from them as the Government has told us all to stay at home.
Those affected also shared photos of ruined meals and drinks, withflies covering plates, food, cups and cans.
Liesl Oliver, who runs a Facebook page dedicated to the problem, saidit had seen hundreds of people join in the past three days from as faraway as Pill, Portishead, Easter Compton and Southmead.
I live on Shirehampton High Street and Iiterally cannot open any of my windows because of flies.
Campaigner Ian Robinson, has pressured local councillors, local MP Darren Jones, the mayor and the Environment Agency for years to do something about the issue.
He said the powers-that-be are quick to forget about the problem againwhen it goes away each autumn, but this year was worse than ever.
With the coronavirus lockdown, he said he fears not only for people’smental health in the area, but also if the flies themselves might be apossible source of spreading coronavirus.
Alison Starkie said the coronavirus lockdown meant the fly plague wasa double nightmare.
Government advice is that ‘air’ is our friend against Covid-19. We are told to put anyone unwell in well-ventilated rooms.
The fly problem dates back around six or seven years, from the firstsummer after Bristol City Council decided to designate an area ofAvonmouth as the site for several waste firms.
Now, household and industrial waste comes in by the trainload from allover the country every day and every night, and is stored in whatlocal residents claim is unhygienic conditions, which breach the termsof waste licences issued by the Environment Agency.
Last summer, the EA admitted one firm, New Earth Solutions, had beenfound to have exceeded the amount of bales of waste it was supposed tohave outdoors around a dozen times in just a few months - but noenforcement action was taken against the firm.
Local residents said the EA and council officials have told them thatNew Earth Solutions currently have thousands of bales of wasteoutside.
The EA declined to respond when asked why it had not taken anyenforcement action.
This week, a petition demanding action has attracted more than 2,000 signatures in just a few days.
Addressed to Bristol North West MP Darren Jones, on the Change.orgpetition website, it says residents will ‘stop accepting excuses’.
The petition’s author, Kelly Allaway, said:
I pay £185 per month to Bristol City Council for the privilege to live here.
Local councillors have demanded action, and several local residentshave reported that the council officer responsible for dealing withthe complaints said he’d had so many coming in that it was stoppinghim leaving his office to go out and visit the area for himself.
That council officer, who Bristol City Council asked not to be named,has replied to scores of local residents.
One email he wrote appears to have been sent to many residents whocomplained as the plague descended this week.
He said that council officials met with the EA in February to discuss‘fly complaints in warmer weather’.
He said: “We have discussed this further with the EA yesterday and I alsovisited the areas and instigated a program of fly monitoring to helpinform the scale of any problem in Avonmouth and immediate areas, aswell as other parts of the city.
“In favourable warm and humid conditions houseflies require as littleas a week with decaying organic matter to complete their lifecycle sosuch sources are a priority for investigation.
“There is likely to be a number of sources contributing to any problemand combined to the favourable weather conditions it is likely thatthere will naturally be an increase in fly population nationwide atthis time also."
One of the local councillors for Avonmouth and Lawrence Weston is Matt Melias, who said his house had been inundated too.
This week he wrote to the Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees and theEnvironment Secretary at Westminster demanding a ‘rapid response’.
What are Bristol City Council saying?
Many residents associate or attribute the source of this problem with the expansion of facilities which specialise in the handling, storage and reprocessing of biological waste.
Labour’s Bristol North West MP Darren Jones was vocal in his criticismof waste sites at the height of last year’s plague, calling for thecouncil to shut them down.
This year, he responded to many letters and emails from localresidents, and said that he had been told that New Earth Solutions hadone last shipment of waste to dispose of through Avonmouth Docks, andthen that site would be deep cleaned and mothballed.
New Earth Solutions has consistently declined to comment on the issueover the past two years.