Shannon Odours Investigation

Date released: Oct 16 2013

Joint Statement by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Clare County Council on the Current Status of the Shannon Odours Investigation.

Current Status Wednesday 16th  October 2013

1 Notification of odour problem in Shannon
Since late September, both the EPA and Clare County Council have received complaints about odour from the residents of Shannon Town.  (The EPA received 30 complaints between September 24th and October 7th; as of 11th October, Clare County Council had received 41 complaints.)

Many of the people lodging complaints said that the issue has been on-going, intermittently, in Shannon Town for a considerable period of time.

The complaints have come from various areas of the town and its environs but are concentrated in the Ballycasey, Bothár Mór and Tullyvarraga areas.
Following the earliest reports, EPA and Clare County Council personnel began to investigate and verified the occurrence of offensive odours on a number of occasions and at several locations around the town.  They also verified offensive odours in the Bunratty and Cloverhill areas to the east of Shannon Town.

2 Industrial activity / Licensed facilities in the area
Shannon Town (population 9,673 (CSO 2011)) is the location of a substantial amount of industrial activity based in two major industrial estates. All facilities are authorised as required by either Clare County Council or the EPA. There is a total of 9 EPA licensed industrial operations and one EPA licensed waste management installation. The municipal waste water treatment plant at Tradaree Point is also licensed by the EPA.

3 Investigation
The EPA and Clare County Council – assisted by the HSE's Environmental Health Service and the Midwest Department of Public Health - have sought to identify the source of the odours and to identify why they are being released in order to take steps to address the issues quickly and prevent any further releases.

Work already undertaken includes:

  • A database has been created of all odour complaints.  Jointly managed by the EPA and Clare County Council, the details of each complaint in the database are being assessed in relation to ambient weather and wind direction, information obtained from Met Eireann.  Combining these factors has the potential to assist in identifying the source or sources of the odours.
  • Clare County Council staff have carried out odour assessments on most days since Wednesday 25th September. These have been both exploratory (i.e. checking on the presence of odour on a random sampling basis) and as follow up assessments on foot of complaints from members of the public.
  • EPA inspectors visited the area on Wednesday 25th September and Monday 30th September, and on Monday 7th, Tuesday 8th and Wednesday 9th October, engaged in odour assessment and sampling work.
  • The EPA has deployed a full time odour inspector in Shannon who is currently conducting a continual odour assessment. The inspector is on site and is available to respond rapidly to complaints of odour as they are received to verify the nature and extent of the odour and to determine its origin.
  • Inspections and monitoring have been carried out at licensed facilities in Shannon area.

4 Findings to date
Two potential sources of the odours have been identified: Shannon Town’s waste water treatment plant, and the sewer collection network.  Both Clare County Council and the EPA will focus their efforts on improvements in both of these facilities.  While there may be other sources contributing to some of the odours, these sources appear to be the likely cause.

5 Actions
An action programme has been put in place to commence resolving the issue. The programme includes:

  • The development of a programme of improvements - both long and short term - by Clare County Council to optimise the operation of the waste water treatment plant in order to reduce/eliminate the odour issue.  Necessary remedial actions will be identified and measures will be taken to put these in place.  The EPA will provide Clare County Council with advice and assistance in this undertaking; 
  • On-going odour surveillance by Clare County Council and EPA personnel;
  • Maintenance of the database of complaints to provide ongoing intelligence on the occurrence and nature of odours in the Shannon Area; this is being updated daily as information is received;
  • On-going assessment by the EPA and Clare County Council of the industrial operations in the Shannon area and their environmental performance;
  • An assessment of relevant portions of the sewer network in Shannon Town to identify any significant problems with the integrity of the system;
  • Any concerns can be directed to Clare County Council, the EPA or the HSE.

In addition, concerns expressed by members of the public about possible health impacts are being addressed by means of dedicated air monitoring for specific gases including hydrogen sulphide, which has a characteristic rotten-egg smell; many of the complaints have reported this specific type of smell.
Both instantaneous and longer duration measurements of hydrogen sulphide are being carried out. The latter give a more accurate average picture though require more time to complete the tests. The results of these will be communicated as soon as they become available.

6 Communications with complainants and public representatives
Clare County Council and the EPA are responding to complaints as they are received. Since the complaints came to our attention, Clare County Council and the EPA has been liaising with local public representatives. 

Clare County Council and EPA will continue to liaise with public representatives while the investigation continues and until the situation is remedied.

7 Media briefings
Clare County Council and EPA will continue to provide information to the media on request.