'A slap in the face': Residents angry as smelly landfill contract extended

A controversial landfill near Belfast that has plagued residents with a foul odour for several years, will continue to accept waste beyond January 2022 when the site was originally due to close, it has been announced.

The operator of Mullaghglass landfill, Alpha Management, told ENDS last month that following discussions with the waste management group arc21, it had agreed to a contract extension for the disposal of residual waste. 

“The extension offer is for a reduced monthly tonnage and the site at Mullaghglass will continue to provide an essential service for disposal of council waste in the Greater Belfast area,” the company said.

Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, which covers the district where Mullaghglass is located, said it had “considered and agreed to utilise the options to extend contracts for the disposal of residual waste, procured by arc21 on behalf of a number of councils”. 

“These include the use of the landfill site at Mullaghglass. We continue to work with arc21 to secure a longer term alternative waste treatment-disposal solution to deal with this type of waste,” a spokesperson added. 

Daniel Baker, a Sinn Féin councillor for the Colin district of west Belfast, described the news as “a slap in the face to the residents of Lisburn North and Colin”. 

“I'm really disappointed because this is the difference between this coming to an end in 2022 and pushing this on to at least 2023,” he said.

Residents have been complaining about the landfill’s odour for a decade and it emerged this summer that Mullaghglass’s odour management plan has been revised ten times over the past nine years.

Campaigners have lodged two judicial reviews through Phoenix Law Solicitors, claiming that the regulating authorities have not done enough to limit emissions at the site.

One case is against Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) minister, Edwin Poots. 

DAERA has previously said that it is undertaking daily odour surveys in the area, had commissioned additional gas monitoring and was supporting Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council who are carrying out investigations under their statutory powers. In addition, DAERA said it was continuing to liaise closely with Northern Ireland’s Public Health Agency who “following a recent joint site visit did not raise any physical health concerns”.

The second case is against Belfast City Council which also includes the NIEA and Poots. Phoenix Law told ENDS it was putting this second case on hold “pending the outcome of the Lisburn case” given that Belfast City Council had imposed an abatement notice in May requiring Alpha to stop the nuisance odour.

Alpha has said it would challenge the abatement notice and that “the site complies in full with its odour management plan and continues compliance with our environmental permit”.