I feel 'trapped' in my home by smell of 'rotting flesh'

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Neil Dunne says the issue has been ongoing since last year.

A Merseyside man said he feels ‘trapped’ inside his house because the area outside continually smells of ‘rotting flesh’.

Neil Dunne is a campaigner and dad who has been concerned by the smell in Kirkby for some time. He said the issue has been ongoing since late last year and is worried about the potential impacts on his family and the wider community – he is not the only one.

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Like many local residents, Neil has made multiple complaints about a mound of earth situated near to the Simonswood Industrial Estate on Stopgate Lane. As a result, the Environment Agency confirmed they have issued an enforcement notice to one of the ‘operators’ on the estate.

The issue is complex in terms of local authority jurisdiction as the Simonswood Industrial Estate lies within the West Lancashire council area but there are many residents in Kirkby who are impacted by the smell on a daily basis.

Asked to describe the odour, Neil said: “It’s like rotting flesh. You could say it’s like a decomposing body. If it is a tip up there, it must be made up of some kind of decaying organic matter.

“I don’t know the direct impact on people’s health but I know that smell has triggered people’s health problems. I know of one case were someone had a breathing attack because of reacting to the smell. Some parents won’t let their kids out. Kids don’t want to go out. We’re trapped in our houses and have to have our windows closed because the smell is so so bad.”

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Neil said both Knowsley and West Lancs local authorities had advised him to contact the Environment Agency (EA) after becoming frustrated by what he describes as an opaque set of regulations with no obvious pathway to finding a resolution to the odour problem. Neil is part of a campaign group who have called for three action plans for better management of the site, regulation for human health and a contact point for people to make complaints about the specific site.

Mound of rubbish sighted near the Simonswood Industrial Estate, Stopgate Lane, Kirkby. Image: User submissionMound of rubbish sighted near the Simonswood Industrial Estate, Stopgate Lane, Kirkby. Image: User submission
Mound of rubbish sighted near the Simonswood Industrial Estate, Stopgate Lane, Kirkby. Image: User submission | UGC

In terms of the current odour issue, this appears to have been ongoing for a number of months with the LDRS previously reporting on a mysterious ‘rotten egg’ smell over Kirkby back in late March.

For concerned residents, finding the root cause of the odour and getting it stopped is all about safeguarding people’s health and wellbeing. One such individual is a retired NHS worker who left the service due to ill health. They asked to remain anonymous but detail a series of worries about the smell and how simple things – having windows open and hanging up washing – are now impossible.. They said: “It’s like Kirkby is being treated as a dumping ground.

“I recently came out of hospital and wanted to come home and rest. I had to get in the car and leave Kirkby just so I could get some fresh air – the smell was that bad.

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“It’s making me and my family feel nauseous and it’s putting us off our food. I am constantly fearing about the impact on my family’s health.”

Although, there is no quantifiable or official link between odours from industrial estates to ill health, there is a very real and pervasive fear amongst Kirkby residents about the potential health implications for people inhaling the foul smells. These fears are also fuelled by the fact Knowsley has some of the highest risk rates for people dying from cancer.

According to data compiled from Imperial College London, residents of Knowsley are 70% more likely to die from cancer than people living in affluent parts of London. Furthermore, data from Public Health England revealed women in Knowsley have the lowest life expectancy in England.

The fears about air quality are not unfounded. Data compiled by AccuWeather, cites numerous days in March and May this year when Kirkby’s air quality has been certified as ‘Poor’ and ‘higher than the maximum limit’ of pollution as defined by the World Health Organisation. These are statistics which are causing many people to have sleepless nights.

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Amy is a mum and moved to the affected area about seven years ago after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She said: “I wanted to live in a place that was a little cleaner pollution wise – I’m on the border of Lancashire so right at the back of Kirkby with lots of green spaces but that estate is a nightmare and makes me worry about my decision.

“My kids play out around here and come in when they smell it because it’s so putrid – we’ve dealt with a lot of air issues in Kirkby and older generations were breathing in carcinogenic air from an old factory years ago.

“I know the environment agency and Lancashire council found it to be a permitted waste site but again, no listed business and we still smell it so their regulations and enforcements seem to be completely disregarded.”

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Knowsley Council does not have any authority over the Simonswood Industrial Estate, but they have received and responded to multiple complaints from Kirkby residents as the odour drifts into the borough. One reply letter from Knowsley Council read: “As you may be aware, we received similar complaints from other residents about the odour, describing it as smelling of ‘rotten eggs’, ‘gassy’ or ‘sulphur” and we have been working with the Environment Agency and West Lancs Environmental Health to identify the source.

“We can now confirm that a business on Simonswood Industrial Estate, which falls within West Lancs, has been identified as the source of the odour.”

Responding to a request for more information in regards to the Simonswood Industrial Estate, a spokesperson for the Environment Agency confirmed action had been taken: “We have served an enforcement notice on an operator at the Simonswood Industrial Estate to remove excess waste at their site.

“We will continue to deploy officers to assess the impacts of the odour within the community. We thank the public for their diligent reporting of this issue and encourage them to continue contacting our incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60 when odour is noticeable”.

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