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Residents want quick fix of farm smells

Residents unhappy with foul odours and vermin coming from the island's largest dairy farm have demanded a fast solution to what was branded a public health nuisance.

Farm owners Valter and Lidia Medeiros faced an often heated gathering at the Department of Environmental Health last night as close to 100 people packed a public meeting.

Although some called for neighbours to support the couple in their attempts to remedy the situation, others declared they had reached breaking point and wanted to take legal action.

Armell Thomas, the Senior Environmental Health Officer, said that the Government had “a trump card to stop this right away” on health grounds.

But Mr Thomas was confident that a digester tank agreed upon by the couple, which would burn off waste gas and solidify the waste generated by cattle, could be in place early next year.

The meeting was called after months of complaints that Green Land Dairy Farm in Smith's was producing a stench noticeable miles away on bad days.

Area MP Michael Dunkley said the quickest fix would be to stop the use of a manure pit and put the cows back out to pasture to address the immediate issue of an intensely bad smell.

Mrs Medeiros also said they would cover more of the manure pit “right away, probably within the next week or two”.

However, residents repeatedly branded the problem “unbearable” for at least the past six months. They complained about plagues of flies and pigeons and an increase in rats.

Many questioned why the offending manure pit had been approved by Planning, when it had been opposed by the Department of Health.

Although Planning had been invited to attend last night's meeting, no representative was present.

Resident and lawyer Alan Dunch told the gathering that they had the power to obtain an injunction against the farm.

Mr Dunch added: “What you will ultimately face is a great number of people in this room going to the courts to shut you down. You really have to get proactive.

“It's not good enough to say that it's a farm and there's always going to be a smell. Until the last two years, there never was a smell.”

Staff from the Whitney Institute said the swarms of flies affected the day-to-day running of the school.

Residents described loss of revenue from rooming guests and declining property values. One neighbour drew applause after telling the couple: “It's an operational problem and it's up to the operator to find the solution. Not the community.”

A member of staff from King Edward VII Memorial Hospital suggested setting up a treatment plant similar to the one the acute care wing uses to process its sewerage, telling the room: “It's not something as simple as putting a cover on a pit.”

A visibly emotional Ms Medeiros eventually left the room with her husband.

Mr Thomas told residents that they were entitled to free water testing if they were concerned at pigeons spoiling the water in their tanks.

In the meantime, he added: “We have some solutions that we have talked over with Valter and his wife. We hope to have it in place by the New Year.”

Installing a fixed dome biogas plant would “hopefully not take that long”, Mr Thomas said. In the meantime, he pledged to hold “a meeting of the minds” to act on complaints.

Farm owners Valter and Lidia Medeiros (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published November 22, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated November 22, 2017 at 12:55 am)

Residents want quick fix of farm smells

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