We’ve all been there; returning home from a day at work or trip away only to be greeted by the smell of rotting food after forgetting to empty the garbage bin.
But imagine waking up to a similar stench and not being able to do anything about it.
That’s the reality facing many Erskine Park and St Clair residents who are being forced to stay indoors and shut their windows to dodge the putrid fumes emanating from nearby waste facilities.
Rafael Perez, who has lived near the Erskine Park netball courts for 18 years, claims to have made about 200 complaints to the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) after suffering on and off for 15 years.
Mr Perez said on particularly bad days he was house-bound.
“You go outside in the morning and the smell hits you in the face, so you run back inside, close the doors and race to get the washing off the line otherwise your clothes end up with a lingering odour,” he said.
“Part of the problem is that there are so many tips around here that we don’t know who is causing the odour – if it’s one specific organisation, or if it’s the lot of them – and everyone points the finger at everyone else.”
Councillor Todd Carney is also keen to stop the rot, requesting Council write to Environment Minister, Gabrielle Upton, seeking greater powers for the EPA to investigate breaches and shut down facilities that continually flout their licence. Harsher penalties were a must, he said.
“The fines they are receiving are not a deterrent. $15,000 for these companies is a very small slap on the wrist,” he said.
“You need more substantial penalties in place to ensure waste faculties manage smells and their waste correctly.”
While the issue has been going on for “years”, the smell has recently spiked.
“Over the last month it’s just been horrendous,” Cr Carney said.
“People have to keep their windows shut and are driving around with the re-circulation on, so the smell doesn’t come into the car.
“It’s also impacting on the kids being able to go out and play and it’s not something that the community should have to deal with.”
Mr Perez said it was not just the smell but the air quality that concerned him.
“The smell is just a symptom, what is in the air that is causing the smell and what are the health ramifications?” he asked.
An EPA spokeswoman said it has been actively conducting site inspections and odour surveys in St Clair and Erskine Park following an increase in odour reports from the public over the past month.
She said the Land and Environment Court can impose a maximum fine of $1,000,000 for a corporation and $250,000 for an individual, while the EPA can issue fines of $15,000 for breaches of a company’s Environment Protection Licence.
There are eight waste management centres in western Sydney including Cecil Park, Badgerys Creek, Kemps Creek, Erskine Park, Eastern Creek and Horsley Park.
Alena Higgins is the Weekender’s Court Reporter